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Sep 28, 2011


With mere hours left until Rosh Hashanah, I find myself shockingly unprepared. I remember back to when I was in Yeshiva, how I spent the month preparing myself, how the moments moved towards the holiday, the culmination of thirty days of slichot and pouring my heart out to Hashem over and over and over again.

I remember how doing so was a cleansing, that pouring and pouring with my words, my thoughts, my feelings brought on a cleansing of its own. I am reminded of a Mashal that my Rav used when he noted the way some people say words of Torah or Teffillah without thinking or investing in them. They were compared to a bucket, and for someone who did not meditate, focus and hold onto them, it was like a bucket with a hole. But even though the words -which can be likened to the flowing of water as in the Gemara (Messechet Ta'anit) -may flow right through, he said, at least you are left with a clean bucket.

And so, by bringing the words into my mouth and pouring out my soul, I felt cleansed. Purified and ready to face my Creator on the day I choose -again -to accept him as my Ultimate Master, my King, my Father.

But this year, I found to my chagrin, I have had no such luxury between the utter craziness and business of my daily life. While I worked hard to incorporate what I could, it cannot compare and I found myself falling far short of where I know I can be, where I feel I should be. I'm not ready. 

But it's coming anyways.

I am the kind of person (in case you didn't notice) that has a mild obsession with preparedness, and so not feeling prepared evokes anxiety, fear and a sense of incompetence for me. If nothing else, it is an awakening and a personal lesson. But as long as I have time left, I will endeavor to make whatever preparations I can.

Sep 27, 2011

How I'd Like to Take Thee Apple Picking...

Dear Dater of the Female Persuasion,

I'm a huge fan of apple picking. Apparently, so are y'all (find out how I know at the bottom of my blog). What a perfect time! I want to go. Scratch that, I am going. I would be thrilled to have such a fun time climbing trees, finding the juciest of apples, biting into their crunchy, juicy flesh and reslishing the simple delights of nature's candy with you as my sidekick. Whether it's a game of hide-and-seek in the orchards, a contest for who can find the juciest, sweetest, crunchiest apple or just taking a simple stroll through the sun-lit trees, I'm just so excited for apple picking with a partner in crime.

Unfortunately, it seems I'll have to go it alone, or bring a choice friend or two. Maybe it's me, maybe it's you, maybe it's neither -or perhaps both -of us. I sometimes wonder how you figure you know me well enough to decide that it'll never happen, since we've barely spent a few hours together. But as long as you don't give me a chance for a third date, I may have to hold off on bringing you along.

Dumped After The Second Date, Again.

Sep 23, 2011

Dating in My Spare Time

Since I started school, field work, research (part-time) work and several other responsibilities (which are wonderfully fulfilling), I've been asked over and over how I have time to date. I think about it a lot myself too.

I'm a big believer in the idea that we make time for the things that are important for us. We always have (or find) time for our top priority. Of course, what the top priority is may vary from day to day, hour to hour, moment to moment.

But with so much going on in my life, I've begun to feel that the time I set aside for dating feels like my "spare time." Every time I'm trying to sort out the logistics of a date, I have all those other responsibilities to put first, to navigate and make sure they are taken care of. Only then can I carve out a few hours for a date.

I'm confident that I have my priorities straight and I'm serious about searching for a wife, but it has been feeling a bit like an afterthought or a hobby... something I'm doing when I simply have a bit of time that isn't taken up by other parts of my life.

Sep 21, 2011

Single's Week!!!

Apparently, this week is single’s week. Yay! Let’s not be so depressed or stigmatized for one whole week!

On a less sarcastic note, I find it interesting that (a) more Americans are remaining single for longer and (b) national “single week” is not about celebration, partying, random hooking up… it’s about being accepted as singles and not seen as Nebuch for it.

But in many ways, I think the state of singlehood comes with an underlying assumption (probably more than just one, but one comes to mind). As Mark Grungor says, America sees marriage as a “life sucking institution” instead of a “life giving institution” (look him up on youtube, I think he’s hilarious and insightful).  The result is that people wait, try to build themselves up and “be ready” before marriage begins to suck the energy or life out of them. So people need to have a job, a car, a house… they should travel and do everything they really want before getting tied down to the ‘ole ball-and-chain.

I find that idea itself fascinating, and it’s very different than wanting to be married or not. It’s an attitude towards what happens in marriage, which may or may not be related to my desire to get married. While I think that many of us have social, religious, biological, emotional, personal and other types of reasons for wanting to get married… what we believe will happen in marriage will still impact our approach towards dating for marriage and what we’re looking for.

With that, I want to pose the following questions. What do you believe happens in marriage? Is it energy sapping or energizing? In what ways do you expect it to require effort and in what ways will it provide support? Which side do you focus on, which is more important to you?

Sep 19, 2011

Men 101: Touch

I realized something very interesting.

The way I know that I like a woman, I mean really like her, is when I get constant thoughts about touching her. The impulse isn't necessarily always sexual, but in a strong way, that's how my desire to connect with a woman manifests.

Funny thing about guys -touch is often really important to us, and yet we tend not to have very touchy-feely connections (by and large). The best we have, stereotypically speaking, is a high-five and a smack on the behind. Even that, in more conservative or religious settings, is not appropriate.

Think about it for a moment. Society really isolates men in terms of touch. How often do single guys get touched, massaged, or physical contact (outside of contact sports). Even when we hug, it's a half-hug with one arm and a shoulder-bump. Not much physical contact. The fascinating thing is that we humans are wired to need touch. It's one of the things that drives me nuts sometimes. It's so clearly damaging (to me at least), and yet there's no question that Shmiral Negiyah is equally -or more -important.

Everyone appreciates affection, and I think touch is a very important type of physical affection. Clearly I'm a very touchy-feely guy, though, so perhaps I'm one of the few that is bothered by the minimal physical contact.

Sep 16, 2011

5 Things Men Must Know About Women

Tania's hat tip to me regarding 5 Things Women Must Know About Men got me thinking about what y'all think Men need to know about Women... so chivivai... let's hear!

Sep 14, 2011

Dating in the Minority

Since Tania and I began comparing some of our different perspectives and we come from such different places, we thought that approaching a topic from different angles may be interesting... So we've both decided to write about cross-cultural dating.

I'd like to provide some context for my thought process, so I'll start with a conversation I was having with my friend the other day where we brought up the subject of being Sefardi in the "frum" dating world. We had a minor disagreement whether men or women have more stigma and difficulty in terms of dating in the Ashkenazi world, but as we explored the topic, some interesting thoughts came out that I'd like to share.

There's plenty of stigma to go around, and I've personally heard (Ashkenazi) women say they wouldn't date a Sefardi guy (sometimes in reference to myself) because of all the changes and differences, particularly having to change her Tefilah, Kashrut and other day-to-day Halachot that we fit into the routine of our lives. It's interesting to me, having grown up in an Ashkenazi dominated culture and community, to recognize that while I am familiar and have a foothold in both communities (and both sets of Halachah), many Ashkenazim don't dip their pinky toe into the Sefardi culture/community, and the majority wouldn't consider or learn Sefardi Halachah.

Small and large things like differences regarding Eruvin, restaurant and food Kashrut, Shechitah, Minhagim for the Chagim as well as basic differences like Tefilah and Pesach -along with other Halachot -form an invisible barrier that separates us in many ways. I learned to cross that barrier, to walk in both worlds and finding a balance for myself has been a challenge. But when it comes up in dating, I've found it's even more difficult. I've experienced a lot of reticence from Ashkenazi women to entering my world. In a small way, I've felt discriminated against for my heritage.

We are a minority here (with the exception of a few insular communities, whose number compared to the great many Ashkenazi communities provides further evidence of our minority status), and with that means we have a smaller dating pool. (I can write on and on about the ways that Sefardim being in the minority impacts daily life and how much accommodation I've had to make in order to be accepted in -and part of -the Ashkenazi Jewish community around me as well.) If y'all think it's tough to find someone, imagine someone whose dating pool is less than a fraction of yours.

Outside of that small pool, for those who suggest or think about it, there are a whole other set of challenges. Issues like basic cultural differences, about which my Rav once said that Sefardi women who date/marry Ashkenazi men often work out better, because our traditional expectations do not place the same obligation and responsibility for men to help out (in terms of cooking and cleaning) but instead bear a greater burden to support the entire family on his own, and so when an Ashkenazi man helps, he is very much appreciated for it. On the other hand, Sefardi men who grew up in traditional Sefardi households experienced their mothers and women as being home, cooking and cleaning and taking those responsibilities (often with pride), which sets an expectation for his future wife to do the same. The clashing expectations between such men and Ashkenazi women can be catastrophic.

(While I understand that expectations can clash, personally I'm much more focused on how differences are dealt with. Communicating, accepting and accommodating for them is much more important to me than the expectations themselves, because we are all different and have differing expectations. It's how we deal with them in our relationships/marriage that determines the quality of the relationship, not the specifics.)

On the other hand, when it comes to extended families, they are often much more accepting of men who marry Ashkenazi women, since she is expected to take on his Minhagim and Halachot, enter his community and acculturate. In a sense, she becomes part of the family because of the patriarchal structure. But when a Sefardi woman marries an Ashkenazi man, she follows him, and the heritage is often seen as diminished or lost (though that is not always the case, since families are usually still tight-knit and close). And yet, the expectations for child-raising may indicate the opposite. Namely, that a Sefardi woman who spends time and raises her children with Sefardi heritage gives him more of those values than the Ashkenazi woman who imparts her own family's values. It can get very complicated and messy with the expectations and realities. 

Yes, challenges don't spell doom. But the barriers -that invisible line -has yielded a very interesting experience for me. While my parents have much more acceptance of the idea that I may date/marry someone not from my background/community, I have found that many women aren't interested in even considering me because of my heritage.

I acknowledge that I have a preference myself, and I notice that dating women from my own culture and background is -in so many ways -easier. But the struggle then is that -despite my privilege as a man -the demographic is generally much smaller. So searching for a similar (enough) Hashgafah and heritage and everything else I'm looking for... is proving to be an additional challenge for me in dating.

Not to mention that every time a Shadchan asks about my preference and I tell her, she decides that since she knows a total of two Sefardi women and one of them is already engaged, that the other absolutely must be my Bashert. But it's a YIDDISH word! I'm not Ashkenaz, and if experience is an indicator... that word clearly doesn't apply to me, given the way they keep using it with me. :P

Sep 9, 2011

Men 101: Impulses

This post by Yedid Nefesh got me thinking about the male sexual impulse. While I've been thinking about addressing male sexuality, that's a whole other topic. However, in reference to the male impulse for sexual contact and sexual release, I have a metaphor.

Imagine having to fast for a day. Many of you may not have to imagine, and know some of the challenges that come with it and those feelings of weakness, headaches, stomach aches, hunger, thirst, inability to focus, exhaustion... that tell us our body is in need of nourishment and drink. In a sense, it is a kind of withdrawal, all those powerful physiological alarms that tell us that our body requires care.

For some, fasting for a day isn't terrible. Imagine having to fast for two consecutive days, or three, without any opportunity to eat or drink. What about fasting for a full week? A month? A year?

A person would die long before then.

The male sexual impulse is often compared to hunger or thirst. It's a need that does not simply go away after being filled once, or once in a while. The body sends out powerful physiological reminders and alarms reminding us that we need care.

And yet, we are told not to until marriage. So, from the age of about 13 until our 20's at the very least, we're starved. Can you imagine living for seven years without food? Without water? If we were forced or kept alive, but had to live with that kind of starvation... it is a form of torture.

For many observant men, it gets worse. We are told we cannot touch. And, in many ways, we can't look. But it's there. Women are on the street, in stores, on the roads. Beautiful and tempting... and we are hungering. All the time. All. The. Time.

(From this perspective, I can understand the extreme divisions. I don't agree with them, for a great many reasons, and I don't find this reason sufficient to justify the extreme measures and lengths, but that's just my own little mind.)

To try and understand what it takes for a man not to act on that impulse, that hunger, that torture, is to understand how every moment -from moment to moment -that he does not give in he is producing miracles, engaging in the most exalted acts of heroism and moving mountains in restraining himself.

Put him in a relationship or dating a woman, and you've multiplied his difficulty exponentially, especially when the couple find each another attractive. 

Maybe I'm just too much a disciple of Rav Levy Yitzchack of Bardichev, but for every moment that a man restrains himself -especially under this kind of pressure -he builds tremendous merit for himself. It is a test that is passed for each and every second of restraint. I don't count the number of times it's broken, but the number of seconds it's maintained, and the dedication to maintaining that restraint.

It's a perspective I think can only be gained by understanding the forces at work. Understanding it without having to experience it is perhaps, shall I say, difficult. 

Sep 8, 2011

Busy Season

As I noted when the summer began, this school year is going to be particularly busy. Between fieldwork, classes, research my part-time job and various other responsibilities, much of my time will be taken up.

While I'd thought summer would be a great time to start dating, it was much slower and each step -be that getting a suggestion, giving appropriate thought/time, answering, waiting to hear back, calling, scheduling and finally going out -took more time than I'd envisioned it would. Not to mention having to go back and revisit the cycle (be that finding time for and scheduling another date or having to return to square one). I guess that's why they call dating a process, huh.

What a pain.

Anyways, as I enter perhaps the busiest semester of my life (thus far... they always seem to get more crammed with responsibilities), I really wonder how I will keep up with my dating life. I will probably struggle to simply get enough sleep and eat right, though I hope that dating doesn't go out the window. Thus, I expect it to slow down considerably, as I won't have time to consider each match at my leisure.  It may take me longer to respond, I may rush my decision or make more snap judgments because I'm busy, badgered or don't have the time I'd like... Or maybe I'll just keep telling people I'm busy and push it off.

We'll see, I'll have to feel it out. 

Sep 5, 2011

Shall I Make Thee Swoon...

I made an interesting observation over the summer (see the end of this post), namely that a lot of women will decide on a guy based on how she feels for him, despite/irrespective of his character. At the same time, how she feels about him is also related to his character. It reminds me of the impression I've gotten from Shidduch dating and some of the limitations I've experienced.

My summer recap got me thinking about my personality and character coming across as "nice" and inhibited in comparison to how I know myself and how others know me. Perhaps it's time to reflect again on my dating strategy, and how I feel I come across in shidduch dating.

I find myself creative, the kind of person who sees many things through the eyes of a child. I'd love to go to the park on a date and be able to hang around on the jungle-gym, to climb higher on a pair of swings, to play in a sand box making sand castles. I think that biking down the river is a blast, that arts and crafts can open a world of imagination, and that impromptu puppet shows with hand-made sock puppets can be hilarious. But none of these things are options -in my mind -when I'm set up with a woman through the Shidduch system.

At least, not until later. But those parts of me are the ones that bring excitement and connect in unique ways -in ways that show I'm the kind of guy who will, after being married for ten years, still chase her around the house, grab her foot and draw a smiley face down there, just for fun. (Of course, it's also about finding someone who will be receptive to my playful nature.)

It's easy to flirt -to be playful, uninhibited, humorous and teasing -when making sock puppets, or running around a playground, or the like. But at coffee shops and book stores I just don't feel it...

Maybe it's time to just go "Spanish Buzz" on a date:

Thought 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: 

"I've found that what some women say they want, and what they respond to aren't always the same thing."
As always, thoughts and feedback are welcome.

Sep 3, 2011

When Giving Him the Boot...

Ladies, next time you tell a guy you're not interested or that "you don't feel it," here are a few of things NOT to say/do when you give him the boot (Just in case it wasn't made clear... I was dumped recently):

1) Don't start with "Do you have time to talk? I need to talk to you about something..." and follow it up with "I'll call you shortly" but take over forever to actually call him.

2) Do NOT gush about how great he is when you're dumping him. It's super confusing. Yes, I understand intellectually that there are great people that aren't meant for each other and flattery (or ego stroking) is nice, but it's not the time to tell him both things at once. It's emotionally confusing and sends mixed messages to the guy.

3) Don't say: "I'm in [some other city] and a bunch of shadchanim have been trying to set me up with guys since I got here." It's tactless and gratuitous jabbing.


And here is a recap of my stats for the summer: 

Number of women suggested: 26

Number of women I "declined": 17
Number of women I "accepted": 9
Number of women who "declined" me (or were busy): 6
Number of women who "accepted" me: 3

Total number of women I dated: 3
Number of women I dumped: 0
Number of women who dumped me: 3

All in all, a busy summer, though I didn't expect it would take so much time to get dating... I've also noticed that a lot of women will decide on a guy based on how she feels for him, despite/irrespective of his character.

Sep 2, 2011

Starting Over

After going out a number times, several attempts at plans got waylaid as a result of summer travel, natural disasters and other events/scheduling issues that get in the way.

And so, after three weeks, while I've kept in touch with the woman I began dating over a month ago and we talk with relative consistency, the distance (and I absolutely abhor long distance) cooled things off more than I'd expected. It's been like a forced break, and while I'd been up in the clouds, the distance has been... sobering.

Things I'd seen and appreciated and really liked feel faded. Things I was quick to overlook resurfaced and made me wonder. A few flags have begun to emerge -thoughts and concerns I want to keep an eye on. In part, it's been eye-opening, like being able to see again.

But I also realized that thinking through all these things and being separated has me over-analyzing the situation. The distance pulled apart what I'd wanted and thought and felt was perhaps beginning to (and has the potential to) come together, and I was definitely not ready for it.

For me, that kind of "cooling off" can pull apart connections that were made over the first few dates, which was a jarring and surprising experience to me this time 'round. So, when the opportunity finally arises again, I may have to start over with her.

Such is life... but chances are, I'll thoroughly enjoy the experience all over again.