Search Me (My Blog)

Dec 28, 2011

The Cell Phone Theory

So, following the coat-tails of a previous post (and a hat-tip should go to Princess Lea for inspiration), I was just struck by an interesting metaphor.

Does anyone remember the days when cell phones didn't have apps, bbm, sms, mms, gmail, gchat... and the rest of the alphabet soup? When a cell phone did just one thing: make calls (and didn't have to be super thin to be considered worthwhile).

People went to the store, picked one up that fit their style and went home happy.

Nowadays, every phone has so many details it's hard to keep track! How much memory? Does it have a micro-SD? How big is the screen? What is the resolution and the ratio? How bright are the colors? How responsive to touch and roll? 3G or 4G? How many megapixels is the camera? Is there a forward-facing camera to video-chat? Full browser and facebook and gmail and gchat and group-chat and a million apps, and, and, and...

The more people try to cram into a phone, the more we feel like we have to keep getting a new one, and that the one we get absolutely must have the best features. Because, after all, you take it everywhere you go and use it every day, right?

Here's the analogy. Since when did we begin to obsess about all the little details for a mate? No, seriously. It used to be like the phones of yore, just find one that fits your style and enjoy making calls. Pretty simple. But now it's super complicated because we're all trying to get the fanciest one out there (just the one for me, of course!) and we sit around hashing out all the minutiae, all the little apps and details we want customized... a veritable alphabet soup of features. Because of the expectations.

I recently got a new shnazzy phone. And I still remember the one I had almost ten years ago, that couldn't send or receive texts. Yeah, I can do a lot more on the one I have now, and it serves me very well. But also, my expectations for a phone far outweigh what they were before. Almost a decade ago, I was just happy to connect with another person, to talk. There was no need to have fourteen and a half ways of reaching them, just one. Simplicity and connection were the point.

In some ways, I realize that the more I learn about what the shnazzy phone can do, the more I've begun to expect it to do more than it's capable of; when it can't perform the exact way I expect, it's easy to get frustrated and say "but it should be able to do what I want!"

I'm not sure that's the way I want to think about dating and women, though. Somehow, I feel that it's easy to slip into that mentality. For the time being, I'm still in wonder over the amazing piece of technology inhabiting my phone. I hope to always have that youthful, curious, open and awed view when dating and in marriage.

Dec 26, 2011


Shushing a child in public communicates that you care more about how everyone else around them feels than how they feel.

Think about it for a moment. A child begins to fuss, whimper and even cry or scream. And what does the parent do... Do they first ask themselves about what the child is feeling, thinking, having trouble with? Do they look around pleadingly or embarrassed? Do they scoop the child up and rush off? Do they chastise the child? Do they tell the child how to feel, or how not to feel? Do they encourage the child to understand how they are feeling, what they are responding to? Do they yell? Are they calm? Do they bark commands? Are they narrating and showing the child their own thought process?

I think it is always important to first acknowledge their emotions, then grant them the awareness of their surroundings. It is important to recognize how they feel, to give that the first priority. It's also important to teach them about social norms, rules and expectations. But it's how we do so that builds an enduring trust and bond.

For example, saying something like, "You look really upset, because you want ice cream, but we're not getting ice cream today. You really really wanted ice cream. I wish we could give you ice cream every day, whenever you want. It's really upsetting not to get what we want when we want it. There are also a lot of people around, and yelling is not for the supermarket because it is disruptive. We use indoor voices at the supermarket, because other people also use indoor voices and everyone needs to do their shopping. When we are upset, we can say 'I am very upset because I want ice cream and I can't get ice cream' instead."

While it may seem long or convoluted, it communicates a few very important things. Firstly, that we are attuned to the child, their wants, needs and frustrations. That those things are very important to them, and to us. That we care about them and want to make them happy. That they won't always feel happy and we won't always be able to give them what they want, regardless of how we and/or they feel. That we need to be conscientious of our surroundings. That there is an appropriate way to communicate their feelings. (It is also to recognize that we need to be attuned to the way a child feels, because if we aren't they will have to escalate in order to ensure we're getting the message.)

If the child is still very upset, then they probably did not feel as though their feelings were truly heard and understood (some kids may learn that they are really only heard/understood when the parent responds with action or gives them what they want). So it's important to focus on their feelings. Sometimes, it's even important to leave (especially in a public place), though that can be an additional frustration for the child.

Otherwise, by shushing them, we just communicate to them that we care less about their feelings, what they are experiencing and who they are and more about how other people they think of us. Or maybe, we communicate that they need to try harder to really get our attention and make them a priority. Make no mistake, they will try harder, push and escalate. Children, more than almost anything else, want to be heard, understood and responded to. The attention and empathy is so important to them, it cannot be overstressed.

We don't always have to do what the child wants, but it's often much easier on both the child and the parents when we give them our understanding empathy.

Dec 25, 2011

When I'm Hurting

When I am in pain,
When my heart is hurting
When I clutch at my chest
And give way to silent, invisible tears.

I see your eyes.
But I do not want concern.
I do not like to see you worry,
Or wonder if I'll make it through.

I will.

What I want to see,
What I wish to feel,
And know...

Is that you understand.
That you see I am in pain,
That it means something to you.

I will be fine.

If you worry,
If you express concern,
It makes me wonder
How strong you think I really am.

If you believe it will
Cut so deeply,
That I will never recover,
That I will hurt forever....

I will heal.

What I don't want
Is your haughty pity
Or attempts to change my feelings.

Don't try to fix it
To fix me or my feelings.
Trust in my strength, show me respect.

And I will show you resilience.

It will change soon.
My heart will beat on,
My mind will clear,
My soul will endure.

I am strong.

All I need
When I show you
My pain

Is to see
Just how much
You care.

Simply be with me.

Dec 22, 2011

What To Do, What To Do... (Part 2)

I left off previously by presenting and sarcastically mocking the plan for life development and marriage stages that seems both an ideal and simply inapplicable nowadays... 

So then, what was the idea behind "Shmoneh Estreh L'chupah"? How did it work way back when? What does it mean today?

The most common answer I find is the cultural one. It states that back in their day and age education ended at the age of twelve or so, and while children began to learn a trade be beginning an apprenticeship at that age, they also continued learning Judaic texts. By the age of seventeen the man had learned a trade, probably acquired some sort of dwelling and/or shop and thus (as per the Rambam) was ready to seek a marriage partner. Nowadays, we just can't do that because of the culture and our maturity level.

While that's all nice and dandy, there's one piece that is abundantly clear to me, but I see is missing in the explanation.

But before I get started on that... Seriously, Chazal didn't recognize that the world changes? Do we give "the cultural answer" for other Halachot, saying they're outdated? I mean, really?!?! I give Chazal more credit than to simply state that in this day and age it's impractical.

The age guidelines didn't just account for maturity in terms of intellect, emotions and adulthood. It accounted very strongly for sexual maturity. Thus the harsh language in the Talmud and the developmental timelines indicate something very clear to me -that we have a very real and very important desire to consider as well.

Think about it -marriage comes last in the stages of life development laid out. So then why put a number on it? Why set these limits with harsh language, making reference to violating the commandments, living in sin, exploding/rotting bones?

There is a recognition that marriage is important, and perhaps that there are reasonable limits to how long humans can handle not being married -and for the purposes of this post, I'm considering the aspects of touch, desire and procreation within marriage (though there's a whole lot more to talk about). There are consequences and repercussions for not having those desires, including physical intimacy and marriage established by a certain age. Serious enough to merit very abrasive language.

Clearly the sources map out an ideal situation which now clashes with our reality. The Rav writes that Halachah is an ideal world, which our reality does not conform to. At its best, Halachah tells us how to respond to the world we live in. I think this conundrum presents a frustratingly clear example of that stark contrast. Which leads to the core question how do we respond to the realities, given Halachic imperatives?

Compounding the question is the recognition of how jarring the reality is. The fields of medicine/biology, psychology and law all recognize that there are serious limits and consequences in attempting to squelch or delay physical intimacy beyond the late teens (~18). Concerns for having children before being able to support them (both in the secular world and within the sources quoted above) convolute the issue as well.

In that sense, so many of us are stuck in "no man's land" while every available source indicates we're not in the ideal situation.  And that's putting it mildly. Trying so hard to consolidate what everyone knows and agrees on without knowing when -or even if -there will be a reprieve. Trying to uphold the values while enduring the struggle and frustration, often without even having a place to voice our pain, a forum to discuss the consequences and/or a way to negotiate how we can best handle where we are in life.

It is, by so many accounts, the challenge and test of our time. (Just as a quick note, there are some communities that take these Halachot as a guide and marry at a younger age, perhaps because of these concerns.) 

Western society chose to address the individual's concerns, pain and well being based on the available information, eschewing all other concerns for their fundamental precept: preserving an individual's right to pursue their happiness as they see fit. Halachah and the Orthodox community places the values of family, marriage and preserving the family unit above all else by creating safeguards for upholding the sanctity of marriage -literally Taharat Hamishpachah -through laws built to create and maintain a unique, reserved and holy connection forged through physical intimacy exclusively within the context of marriage.

A large part of me sees significant agreement among Jewish sources and the fields of science and law regarding our human needs and limits. The fact that circumstances have changed so that when we do reach and pass the red-line we cannot follow the guidelines, warnings and advice of all these source means that we're the ones left alone to deal with it.

As for my own thoughts and conclusions, I see and experience the pain and I admire the values on both sides. I recognize that my struggle and the challenge(s) I experience puts me in a place of partial blindness. I cannot always see clearly through the pain to the Halachic values that I hold dear. But I am resolved and decide every day that I am determined to maintain those values.

Trying to walk a Halachic path in life blinded by pain with my hands tied behind my back means that I may very well stumble, fall and get hurt. I may perhaps even take a step off the road. But those are not intentional steps off the path, nor do I say to myself it is okay to walk away. My resolve and determination are the hardest but most important virtues to uphold -they are the compass that keep me pointed in the right direction.

Dec 21, 2011

What To Do, What To Do... (Part 1)

Over here I discussed my experience with Shmirat Negiyah. The comments were split into two basic themes: appreciation of the feelings expressed and words on what to do about it. While I'd hoped to garner more discussion on the feelings, I noticed that the larger and more passionate responses addressed the actions that should or should not be taken.

So here's the place to begin.  A place to open up that discussion.

Several (okay, so maybe it's more than several) years back, I ran into a very interesting conundrum. For a single male reaching the age of twenty, there is a very notable source that seems to create a conflict. Learning about this source lead to a larger inquiry within Jewish sources for the prerogative to get married, the (ideal) age to do so and the life-development stages to consider. I'm laying out what I can scrounge and remember from that process, and I know there is much more (and a whole lot of discussion to be had). Then I'll tell you about my own thoughts, considerations and perhaps even a conclusion or two.

Let's start with the life development concerns. The Mishna in Pirkei Avot (5:21) states: "At five years old a person should study Mikra, at ten years the Mishnah and at fifteen the Talmud." Shortly thereafter (5:25) they give guildelines for when to get married: "Shmoneh Estreh L'chupah."

The Talmud (Sotah 44a) teaches that the proper sequence of a persons life should consist of: (a) acquiring a house, (b) learning a trade and (c) marrying. Interestingly, the Rambam (Hilchot Dei'ot 5:11) flips the first two, noting that learning a trade precedes acquiring a house. Commentators struggle with the issue, but ultimately everyone concludes that marriage should come last and that is the most important value to extract from these sources. The rest is just logistics and practicality concerns. 

Okay, so we have a sequence of learning and a sequence of building a life and family. Now the troublesome part. There are many different opinions for the proper ages, but here are two more I picked up along my inquiry:

The Talmud (Kiddushin 29b) brings down the following:
Rav Huna says: one who reaches the age of twenty and has not married, he lives all his days in sin. Rava said, until twenty years the Almighty sits in anticipation waiting for a person to marry. Once he reaches twenty and has not married, He says: "May his bones rot!" (Alternatively translated: "May his bones blow up!")

The Rambam states it similarly, but focuses on the commandment violations (Hilchot Ishut, 15:2):
When is a man obligated in this Mitzvah? From the age of seventeen. Once he reaches twenty years and has not married a woman, he has transgressed and neglected a positive commandment.

Oh yes, let's give people a mere three years to find a bashert! Oh, and by the way, you have -at best -about 2 years to seriously learn Gemara before being responsible to pursue marriage. Lastly, let's make sure you know that Hashem is waiting for you to find your bashert before the age of twenty. Also, you should have a house and a job before then. So a guy needs to be educated thoroughly in Judaic texts, learn a trade and buy a house by around the age of seventeen. Then he needs to be married by twenty.

No pressure. 

The continuation -which will be posted tomorrow -will push the envelope further and explore the clash between the outline presented here and the reality we have to deal with.

Dec 20, 2011


Can you tell me how to get to married land?

I have this impression -maybe some of you have it too -that the "directions to married land" are now very different than it used to be.

Back in the ol' days, a man would see a woman (usually at some event like a carnival, dance, fair, hangout spot, you know...), find her attractive, pluck up the courage and ask her out. Then the dating begins. What you find out, you find out over time, from being in a relationship. And when you find it out, you make it work because, well, you like her.

But nowadays, in the new age of online dating, cell phones, facebook and google... man hears a woman's name, checks out her SYAS profile, asks a bunch of questions, Googles her, facebook stalks, texts a few (mutual) friends with a list of questions...

Listen, people... We don't need to do a whole background check to figure out if she'll become the "first lady," over here! You're not the president; the secret service, FBI and CIA don't need to get involved to figure out the minutiae of her life!

Seriously, I think all this intelligence work gets in the way of people getting together.

Here's how I see it. When two people get time to interact, to see each other in a relaxed setting (as in, not hyper-aware of being watched or hounded for dating and marriage purposes) they can find a spark of connection. That spark grows into a relationship. Over time, more parts of each person are opened up, brought into and integrated into that relationship. The process builds a symbiotic connection that grows over time, which gives two people the strength to handle whatever comes up.

But when all the intelligence comes first, there is no connection. By the time two people are actually out on a date, they have already undergone a serious, heavy-duty pre-screening process. And then we put ourselves on a date with them before knowing or having any connection. Or expecting to have it because of all the intel.

Seriously? This is supposed to work? I think, in this particular way, we're going in the wrong direction.

Dec 11, 2011

"Creative Writing" - Sex With Purpose?

Disclaimer: This article may address issues and use language that may seem inappropriate or otherwise offensive to some. Read on only if you are comfortable and willing to take responsibility for yourself. 

I begin with a single paragraph summary, for context:

After a controversial article had been posted in creative writing portion of the Beacon, some backlash and controversy resulted in temporarily taking down the article (meanwhile, it was posted at as a placeholder and parodies cropped up on FrumSatire and TheLevineMachine). Subsequently, a meeting with Yeshiva University administrators resulted in a mutual agreement and parting ways of YU and Beacon as affiliates. As a note, YU didn't directly fund The Beacon, it was funded as a club by a student government at Stern College for Women (the female campus of Yeshiva University). Meanwhile, a whole slew of newspapers, blogs and other media has picked up on the issue (of which a thoroughly incomplete list is posted below) and Toviah Moldwin, one of the co-editors in chief posted a letter of resignation

What I am most interested in, though, is the discussions that came out through some of the comments and media reports that followed (feel free to read the comments on the original article). The core of the issue(s) throughout and the following controversy has surrounded two major topics:

1) The purpose of the article, it's intended and communicated message
2) The propriety of the article's words and approach to the topic at hand

Amid accusations of impropriety and irresponsibility, frustrations over censorship, polarized eruption over the tensions between "Yeshiva" and "University" of the issue, sarcastic mocking on both sides, and diplomatic posturing (for reference, see comments on the original article and following blog posts linked below), the general engagement over issues much larger than words and the topic of sex has me perplexed, fascinated, frustrated, torn with understanding and -somewhat guiltily -amused by the many different angles on the issue(s) at hand.

I often like to sit back and absorb as much information and as many perspectives as possible before making up my own mind; I believe that being informed about the many angles on the issue(s) and -most importantly -more information about what occurred and the thought processes behind the actions taken grants a holistic understanding, which is important to me as someone who strives to first figure out what's going on before settling on my own thoughts.

Often enough I find that I cannot get all the little pieces, and I am left with a woefully incomplete puzzle of the picture, as I am here. And it's the same feeling I got from the original creative writing piece -lacking a sense of the author's feelings and motivations. In fact, in the entire article I found less than a handful of feeling words on a topic that so often is so emotionally charged (just see the passionate responsiveness of the community following the issue for evidence) that I finished the article with a blank impression bordering on shock. It seemed to me like such a numb experience, written either by someone suppressing great emotion due to pain, or as though the entire experience were surreal and not really lived. Alternatively, it's just a bad piece of writing (though I'm going to set aside that possibility for the purpose of my own thoughts).

So what is the purpose?

Confused, I found myself wondering if the author didn't have a full grasp of those feelings herself. My best guesses included her having never experienced what she'd written or was afraid to put her feelings on paper, to force herself to process them, making them truly tangible and available for everyone to read, understand and possibly even judge (or perhaps that the author is actually male). Perhaps that may speak more to the anonymity -a concern for being judged. I can imagine that myself, what would be said of the author if a name had been attached to the article?

In a very typical fashion, many of own thoughts have since been focused on that gaping hole in the article, and wondering whether it mirrors a gaping hole in the author's own heart (and if so, how that experience is for her). Without answers, that is the impression I have. Resolved not to be resolved, I find myself in a nebulous state of confusion and loss for answers, wondering if perhaps that impression is precisely its purpose.

And a little bell chimes in my own mind, ringing with the words, "isn't that -by some definition -the purpose of creative writing?" Sounds so post-modern, which tickles me because I strongly dislike that aspect of post-modern art.

Not having answers is often so much more difficult to manage than resolving on one way of thinking.

Of course, the content seems also of vital importance, especially given the way our community draws associations and represents itself through all things connected to us. Which leads to the second major topic (noted above, see #2), and the latter half of this post: propriety (and issues of what the post is perpetuating, with or without explicit intent). The basic tension I've seen is one of propriety versus self expression.

One side takes a position of religious propriety, noting that any content bordering on (or having) explicit sexual content (however tame by comparison) should not be publicly aired, least of all in a newspaper or other publication intended for mass viewership and particularly when associated with organizations such a Yeshiva University, which is a religious establishment with Torah values at it's core. (Perhaps we can call this side simply "Yeshiva.")

The other side touts one's (legal) rights for self expression, some noting the article's place in the creative writing section of the paper, pointing out its potentially fictitious nature or noting how little explicit content is actually described, or comparing it to Tanach, which has its own explicit descriptions of sexual encounters. (Perhaps this side can be labeled "University.")

Of course there is another view, perhaps best described as centrist, that searches for and questions the value in such a piece, with the position that having substance qualitatively in the form of thick description or quantitatively, grounded empirical/Halachic data, would lend legitimacy and purpose to the article (see the two posts, here and here for Chana's exquisite articulation of this perspective). The idea would be to engage an important issue within a framework, and the framework is one of Torah values with the purpose of struggling with the issues. (Perhaps understood as a rigorously academic form of "Torah U'Maddah")

These three viewpoints are not simply camps of thought, but form a spectrum. In many ways, though, these arguments have left the community quite polarized. I acknowledge that I have no clear answers, and I'm still wondering if that gaping hole -the feeling of unrest that I've been left with since reading the original article -stoked the fires of controversy more than the actual content.

But in my own mind and through my exploration of what's been going on, I have seen the community engaged on so many levels, from different perspectives, on both major topics of this issue. Perhaps I would rather it were more respectfully done, given all the criticisms and name calling I waded through in my exploration of the issue. I also see the entire issue presented in such a fragmented ways through the multitude of different, unconnected sources that the entire process seems to me extremely messy and overly-complicated. More than that, a holistic understanding of what has been going on has been so much more difficult for me to construct (albeit a thrilling endeavor).

While I have many thoughts and probably a few rants on the topic and issue, consistent with my own style, I'd like to gather more impressions and information before launching into my own diatribe (or have I done that already? :P). To that end, I put up a new poll, and I welcome comments and discussion (though, I admit, some may see further discussion as beating a dead horse).

Blog Sources:

Online News:


Dec 7, 2011

Men 101: Looks

Men care about physicality. We shouldn't have to apologize for that. It doesn't make us shallow.

It's also not the be-all-end-all.

The way we men work is very different than a woman; whereas my experience is that a woman's attraction to a man is intertwined with how she feels about him and his personality; for men they are two completely different things. There's a box for "physical attractiveness" and a completely separate, unrelated box labeled "personality and character." Just because one is checked off, it has absolutely nothing to do with the other (and vice versa). 

In fact, much of what we like is based on experience and what we are exposed to (from others and feedback). This is how society encourages or determines what is sexy and attractive. Sure, some of it stems from what our tastes are, but a good chunk of our likes and dislikes has to do with early experiences and exposure.

For example, I really like redheads. Not because they're all more beautiful than the rest of the population, but one of the first women I saw and truly admired -aside from my own mother -happened to be a redhead; I've been transferring that feeling, that association, to other women. It's funny how many things we do/don't like, or avoid/seek out because of a critical or initial impression. It's just the way early experience works.

If someone was teased with a nickname, using it will often be perceived as teasing, regardless of the intent. It's how they've learned to respond to it -and it's an automatic response. The same holds true in many ways for men and attraction. Much of it is socially trained into us and the responses are pretty automatic.

Personally, I find it worthwhile to work on -and perhaps change -some of those automatic responses. Some of those preferences don't have to become necessary criteria. It would be ridiculous for me to decide that I could only date red-heads for this reason. Because me thinking a woman is attractive, and having an automatic physical response can be different things.

Still, there are things that I will not find attractive (or have a particular affinity to). I can't change every bit of learning or experience, nor would I want to. But some things are worth working on.

Quote of the Day #8

 Every so often, I work out a little phrase or thought. Often it seems like I've heard it before, but I'll admit I don't read libraries of literature and I'm not well versed in the world's quotes. In any case, here's one from the other day: 

"What we learn from our own experience, we hold as the virtual certainties of life. But we each have such different experiences that what we see as a certainty, to another, may seem equally uncertain."

As always, thoughts or feedback are appreciated.

Dec 3, 2011

Minimum Dating Requirements

Have you ever thought about how every program for computers has "minimum system requirements" in order to load and run it? Requirements without which the program just won't run...

Sometimes I feel like dating works the same way. In this particular metaphor, "the program" would be dating, having a relationship, marriage and a life together. But each person has their "minimum dating requirements" before they allow "the program" to load up and run.

I had an interesting thought about this metaphor. The idea of having "minimum system requirements" is so that "the program" can run for most people, but I sometimes wonder if our own "minimum dating requirements" are set too high, which may begin to explain why so many of us have so much difficulty.

Some people try and explain that it's a good thing. That we need what we need, that it's important to have standards, that the things we have in our "requirements" are absolutely necessary. Some people talk about really only needing one.

Today, I'm not going down that path. Because today, I'm doubting how true that is. Today, I'm starting to think that if we assume a whole bunch of things we want is what we really need, if we are not being open to building a relationship, trying to see how "the program" runs, if we don't give it a chance -a real chance -we're the ones creating the problem.

Because we're the ones who are pushing away opportunities, telling ourselves and others that it's just not a good fit when we've already decided for ourselves precisely what a "good fit" must be. We're the ones preventing "the program" from running. Because what we have isn't "minimum system requirements," it's just a lack of tolerance for anything outside our own individual set of goals, expectations or dreams.

Expectations like how many hours the guy has to learn to have Torah learning as a value, how thin a woman has to be in order to be attractive. Goals like making Aliyah within a certain number of years. Dreams like having a Shabbat table set with a white table cloth for a specific number and type of guest(s), having plates cleared one at a time. Or having a spouse who will work to make a contribution to family finances and cook and do dishes and take a strong role as a parent and caregiver. And sometimes we reject anyone who doesn't have or conform to all those things under the guise of "that's just not for me" as though it's so different, foreign, unacceptable to have in our own lives. Why? What is so unacceptable? What makes minor or even major differences unbridgeable? 

Occasionally I think we look to far down the line, building an image in our minds of a life we want to cram someone else into. Expectations we form that serve as our "minimum dating requirements." Maybe it should really be titled "requirements to cram you into my life." Perhaps that's a better title for this post.

I admit to being guilty of that, in my own way(s). On both sides -I've been frustrated, feeling that the person I went out with didn't given me a chance; and I've pushed off suggestions, not giving the other person a chance because of my own "minimum dating requirements."

So now, I question myself and everyone, asking: 
"Does bashert mean someone who fits into my own narrow vision of what must constitute my life partner?" 

Because that seems both selfishly narrow minded and really arrogant to me. And maybe I'm a bit of both. Maybe you are too. Maybe it's something to work on and change.


**There is a subtle assumption underlying the entire post, which I will articulate here. Relationships, marriage and building a life/home/family together is a joint endeavor, requiring two people to put in constant, consistent work. These "minimum dating requirements" are far more self-oriented than partner-oriented. They lead to the question: "Is this someone I want for me?" rather than "Can I make it work with this person?" Having a self-oriented view gets in the way of being partner-oriented.)

Nov 30, 2011

Quote of the Day #7

 Every so often, I work out a little phrase or thought. Often it seems like I've heard it before, but I'll admit I don't read libraries of literature and I'm not well versed in the world's quotes. In any case, here's one from the other day: 

"When a man feels lonely, he wants the physical presence of a woman.
When a woman feels lonely, she wants the emotional presence of a man."

As always, thoughts or feedback are appreciated.


In grad school, I have the fortune of having to write many self-reflective essays, exploring my past, my present and many parts of my life.

Having the opportunity and requirement to take a good, hard look at where I am, how I got here, how I feel and perhaps even why I feel the way I do has been a real blessing, and I suggest anyone who has some time work at articulating aspects of their motivation, challenges of their childhood and the experiences of their present, paying particular attention to indicators of the way we react and perhaps when and how we learned to react that way. It can be very enlightening.

In any case, one such topic that I have explored is the concept of "self-care." My field is one of few that have an ethical requirement of self-care, and we are all trained and taught to be very careful in ensuring that we make time for ourselves, do the things we need and love and that we are nurtured and well taken care of.

I was reminded of how important my eating and sleeping habits are, what Shabbat really means to me and how much nurturing I get from being in contact with friends and family.

Think about it, all the small and big things that make us feel happy, that give us strength, help us relax and unwind, the things that we need in order to take care of ourselves. What we need to face the world.

I'm just really appreciative of all those things, and it's worth putting out there.

Lie to Me

I was once sitting in class with a bunch of students, and we were debating -along with the teacher -whether lying is a virtue or virulent force in life. Of course, one cannot avoid how this would impact a relationship, especially a marital relationship, and so the topic derailed, veering into marriage territory. So when I commented that I don't really advocate lying to a woman, especially not for the express purpose of pandering to her emotions, she (the teacher) practically exploded with words that will ring in my head for the rest of my life: 

"When your wife asks you 'honey, do I look fat in this outfit?' you'd better lie to her! So help you... if you don't, you'll be miserable. I'm sure of it."

Even the anger and the tone with which she expressed that sentiment was overwhelming, and threatening. It felt like being talked down to, being emotionally blackmailed. Having to act a certain way, to avoid wrath.

The most important message I learned from that experience is that when I feel that way -as though being truthful is wrong, that I need to cater to a person's emotions out of fear for the fallout or the consequences -there is something very wrong going on. A person shouldn't feel that way in a relationship, shouldn't be afraid of honesty. That's genuinely how I feel.

Now I'm sure that if I don't address how I would deal with a question like the one my teacher brought up, I'll have a ton of women jumping to her defense. While I don't particularly believe in obfuscating truth out of fear, especially not when it is a fear for how a woman will feel, I do believe that it's important to address the real concern. Sometimes, a woman may want actual feedback because she wants to look her best. Other times, she wants reassurance; to know and hear and feel her own beauty.

We guys, though, can feel stuck. Mostly because we think in very straightforwardly logical terms. So when we are asked a "yes or no" question we often think only in terms of answering "yes" or "no." In truth, I've found that often enough, women are communicating differently through their questions than I normally think. So I have to stop myself from wanting to answer "yes/no" and think about her point, whether she's looking for reassurance or being nit-picky about something small or actually needs/wants feedback. It's just not so straightforward as my own brain would see it.

Answering a "yes/no" question with something like "I'm not a fair judge, you are simply beautiful to me whether you're all dressed up or sporting a sweater" doesn't actually answer the question logically or literally, but it sure does address something important. Oh, and if I didn't actually think she's beautiful without all the make-up and the heels... then I've got a whole other set of problems to deal with, and lying is the least of them.