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Jun 29, 2012

10 Reasons Why Nerdy is the Way to Go

Having been born into nerdom, I'm probably biased here. In any case, here goes:

10) Our kids will most probably be brilliant too, or at least will be genetically predisposed.
9) Nerds often have had their feelings hurt, and tend to be more sensitive about hurting others' feelings, including yours.
8) When there's a problem, we'll put our minds to it and won't stop until we find a solution. 
7) We're genuinely happy to be with the person we're with.
6) We'll actually listen, because we know what it's like to feel unheard or unseen.
5) There is no superficial machismo in nerds.
4) There is a soft and vulnerable side to us -and you love it. 
3) We are willing to learn, and will go to great lengths to become better people, men, husbands, fathers, lovers...
2) We don't play games or lead you on.
1) We will appreciate and cherish you every day of our lives.

Next, I'll probably have to write about the 10 Reasons Why Nerdy isn't Attractive (and perhaps some thoughts on how to get over it)...

Jun 26, 2012

Questions I Hate (and Suggestions for Replacements)

I get all kinds of questions in dating, and people seem to answer specific questions in particular ways (regardless of how they are asked). Here are some of the more common ones and a few ideas I have and use in answering them.

1) What is your "look"?
     My Answer: I don't have a "look." I have some preferences, but hair color, eye color, height, age... are not as important to me as wanting to be around her, being proud of having her at my side. A woman with great character -and who wants me -is far more attractive than a picture perfect smile from a magazine. How many women do you know that would elicit those feelings?

2) What kind of personality are you looking for? 
     My Answer: I'm not picky about personality, per se. A little more outgoing or less outgoing isn't the biggest deal. A little more homey or outdoorsy doesn't make or break a marriage. I care about character -how does she handle differences between herself and others? Is she kind to herself and the people closest to her? How does she experience and interact with the world around her? What are her relationships with family and friends like? How does she act under tremendous stress and pressure? How does she handle anger (both her own and that of others)? How does she handle her own flaws, how does she feel about herself? I'm not looking for perfection, heaven knows my list of flaws is longer than my own new roll of toilet paper, but it's about how we handle them -individually and together. Admittedly, I do believe a little playfulness and laughter go a long way. Openness and receptivity are, I think, really important for all good relationships.

3) Do you want a woman who will cover her hair? (Alternatively: How do you want her to cover her hair?)
    My Answer: Tell me, do you know what covering hair means to her? Does she struggle with it? What does Halachah mean to her? Those are the important questions. We all struggle and have our own challenges, I want to know her values. Whether she covers one way or another isn't my greatest concern, it's engaging in the Halachah, struggling and working through it that I value more.

4) How many hours do you learn?
     My Answer: Let me tell you what learning means to me...

I'm going to stop here and ask -do you see a theme? Maybe it's just me (though I certainly hope not), but I think we need to start encouraging a different kind of question asking and answering process for dating. Instead of asking about details like how often someone goes to minyan or learns or whether she knows how to put on make-up, how about asking questions of values and meaning.

We all have a tough time with certain things, but instead of categorizing based on how many years the guy/gal went to HASC, how about asking what the experience of chessed is, what it means to the person? Because after 25 years of being married, the number of years in HASC matter a lot less than the value or perspective a person has in doing acts of loving kindness, or how they handle frustration -especially with their closest friends/family.

I certainly don't answer the questions that are asked of me much of the time, and I think that we have opportunities as single daters to change the questions that are being asked, if only we would answer the questions we want, and encourage our friends, family, matchmakers and websites to begin asking a different type of question.

I'll acknowledge that we often implicitly assume that something like one's kippah choice or time spent engaging in organized chessed represent something, but we have replaced seeking values with seeking culturally/communally determined outward expressions of those values instead. I don't think it's working very well. In fact, I think it's getting in the way of having the important conversations and focusing on the important values in dating, relationships and marriage. 

Jun 1, 2012

Relationship Without Marriage

Boy, do I have a lot to say about this topic!

After spending nine months doing shidduch dating, online dating, friends-setting-me-up-with-someone-random dating and the like, I had enough. I was exhausted, from putting myself into each date and each person, from getting nix'd over and over again. Feeling more judged and rejected than any other time in my life. I crammed a lot into those nine months.

Also, school completely swallowed me up. I had no more time -not a single night in the week -to go out. And then this happened. So when I found myself around someone who was simply a joy to talk to, to laugh with, to delve into the depths of conversation in so many topics, who was simply there while I was going through so much and had so much stress, I was overjoyed.

More than that, though, meeting and getting to know someone casually, without pressure for marriage -which I realized only afterwards is a giant boulder weighing on my every word, thought and consideration in formal dating -allowed me to appreciate her for who she is, to get beyond little details and arbitrary criteria. For once, there was no need to analyze or worry about what her words mean for marriage, how my own actions and words are coming across. Without the pressure, I felt a lot more free to just be myself, to have fun.

Aside from the freedom, lighthearted joy and support, there was more that drew me to a relationship. Being in one -even without looking forward to marriage -is something I wanted to experience. Sure, I have been in relationships before. There was something distinctly different about being in a relationship with someone so self-aware and growth focused. Someone with whom I could explore my own faults and fears, with whom I can share my innermost core, someone who would do the same with me. There is never enough time, always so much more to explore of who we are, and who we are together too.

I wanted to have that, I wanted to know what an argument looks like when two people can be sensitive to each others' feelings and needs. I wanted to know what it's like to hold someone's anger, to feel open in expressing my own, to know that I will be heard and understood first, and to deal with the issues afterwards. I wanted to experience these aspects of a relationship (even in a limited capacity) and I wanted to see it in practice. I saw so much of what I think I'm looking for, and I wanted to experience it so that I will know when the right person comes along.

Which brings me to the next point: the conflict. Clearly I knew early on that she isn't for me (and I'll leave out the specific reason[s] why, because they're not important for this post), and I made sure very early on that we are on the same page. We discussed the issue at length, we weighed the benefits and consequences of being in a relationship that almost assuredly won't lead to marriage. We engaged in that concern, we talked about the value(s) and whether they are worth it. We discussed the limited nature of the relationship, recognizing that by necessity it will be short term. We talked about these issues over and over again, we opened up our feelings and frustrations, and we listened and empathized with each other over and over again. So much care and patience, such a wonder to experience.

In all these conversations I found myself wanting more. I wanted to be in a relationship with such fantastic dynamics, to hold onto someone who can have that kind of sensitivity, to learn about being in a relationship from each other. We made that choice together, and I'm  glad we did. That experience is something I will hold forever, and is invaluable to me.

Sure, it was tough. There was a lot of conflict, and the issues came up over and over again. In some ways, it was more like playing house than a real relationship, because there's no permanence without long-term commitment. Short term commitment may not be an adequate substitute. But it sure beats the pants off of my experience in dating, which as thus far been much more "no commitment" and very selfish in terms of criteria and choice-making.

Where this leaves me in dating now, I'm not sure. I have a lot more to think about in terms of shidduch dating versus meeting and building a relationship. I certainly don't want to have a string of short-term relationships that don't go anywhere, even though I hold this experience as one of the most valuable in my life.

In the meantime, I'll continue plodding along, living, exploring, and learning to handle the conflicts in life.