Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Almost But Not Quite

It's all there. She's somewhat attractive, the right level of observance, friendly and generous, a couple of years younger than me, and a native English speaker. What more could a guy ask for? So now it's time to get to the good stuff.
It's like buying one of those yogurt cups where you slice through the top layer of plain white to get to the fruit hidden below. You keep stirring and stirring, waiting for the magic instant when the yogurt changes from white to "let's-pretend-it's-real-grape" Purple 7. But the moment never comes and, with growing horror, you turn the package to reveal that what you've accidentally taken isn't grape but plain!
That's where it sits; I'm dating the future Mrs. Blah. We've been talking for an hour and I'm not seeing anything coming up. I've been places and done things, I've got big ideas, contrarian and frequently insulting opinions, and all I'm hearing from across the table is, "Yes, I think so too."
Later that night, while I'm running through the post-date show in my head, the agony starts. What to do, what to do? When I was first starting out I would just end it right there. My attitude: sorry honey, no sparks, no second chances. I've got no time to lose and it's every man for himself. But everyone says you have to do a second date.
"If you don't go on a second date," Rafi tells me, "she'll think she's ugly. You don't want her to feel badly, do you?"
Well, eh, no, but why waste her time?
"What was wrong with her?" the shadchanit asks.
"Well, I can't really say. It just wasn't there."
"Then you should go out with her again, if for no other reason than to see exactly what it was that you didn't like."
And what about the lack of chemistry? If I take an unknown substance and dunk it in a beaker of hydrochloric acid, and there's no chemical reaction, then repeating the experiment will not result in a new outcome.
"My wife and I," Rabbi Halevy tells me, "had no chemistry at first. After three dates, we were both thinking about ending it, but I decided to put in some work. If there was no chemistry then I would just have to make it happen. I started paying her complements and buying her little presents. We turned over a new leaf, liking each other more and more. We've been happily married for seven years now, and I can't imagine being with anyone else."
"Okay, I'll give it another try."
"Don't expect Hollywood."
Hollywood. That's the euphemism that they use for the American approach to relationships, true love as an indefinable and ephemeral emotion which conquers all. This is in contrast to the belief amongst the religious that ephemeral love is more of an infatuation which most decidedly does not conquer all. True love, in the religious view, comes years down the road, after having conquered all together. Ask most unmarried Americans which they believe to be true love, and they'll tell you the former. Ask any divorce survivor and they'll tell you the latter. Hence, dating in the religious world occurs with no physical contact, not even a handshake. Avoid infatuation, clarity is critical.
On the other hand, "The point of shidduchim," I was once told, "is only for chemistry." Are your plans compatible? Are you both at the same level of observance? Are you expecting the same things out of marriage? Do you both speak the same language? These questions are all answered before I even get a name and a number. Candidates are vetted to ensure maximum success.

"Hello?""Hi, It's Ephraim calling. I think we should go out again""Yes, I think so too."
Usually, if I'm having second thoughts about a girl, so is she, and I get an automatic rejection. But she said yes, so now I'm going to try it again, to try and make it work. Like a player before he takes the field, I rehearse every move of the upcoming game in my head. I'm buying her dinner. She's throwing her head back in laughter at my sophisticated jokes. I'm paying her compliments. She's fluttering her eyelashes. No chemistry? I'm gonna shove a Bunsen burner under that flask and bring 'er up to a boil. Pretty soon I'm becoming infatuated by my own imaginary charm.
And here she comes. She's walking around the corner towards my table. She sits down. Kickoff time.
"Wow, quite a snow storm we just had. You know, I think global warming is a total crock.""Yes, I think so too."
Uh oh. Now I remember why I didn't want to go out again. Conversation is forced. It's not coming out right, and all of the jokes I've been practicing suddenly liquefy and ooze out of my head. The date goes on. And on and on. It ends with a smile, bit I don't know if I'll be seeing that smile again.
Now it's the bus ride home, time to start the mental post-date game show again. I've got John Madden's voice yelling in my head, "Now you see where he took the conversation and ran with it, outflanking her doubtful glance? He should have given her a lateral and let her run with the conversation, but instead he held onto it clear into the end zone. If he had more preseason training, he could have pulled it off, but pretty soon her offensive line is running conversational interference, trying to get a word in here and there, and he's running way up field, and before you know it we're in overtime and he's back on defense."
You've got a day to call a girl back, any longer than that and you're an irresponsible selfish deadbeat loser. Well, why not go out again? After all, it's only an hour of my time, plus the few days I'll have to wait until we're both free again. But meanwhile, I've been getting calls about other girls in the offing. Another date with this one means I might miss the right one. Do I cut my losses and move on, or play the field again? This is where friends come in.
"I hear that the average is one hundred shidduchim," one of my yeshiva classmates tells me. He doesn't have much experience, so I'll need to do a reality check.
"I've gone out with more than a hundred girls," Moshe tells me, "but less than two hundred."
What about Shmulik, Rafi's brother? "Over two hundred." It took him five years, but he did well in the end.
But I don't have five years. At one hundred girls, even if I went out with one a week, that would still be two years. No, I've got to stop playing the percentages. I need to focus on this one and only this one.
I've got her phone number up on my cell phone. My thumb reaches for the "send" button, but doesn't make it. I've got a sick feeling in the pit stomach. Who am I kidding? It's just going to be the same thing again, no matter how many times I try it. I can't explain it, but I know for sure, so I've got to let her go. Perhaps I could just write a form letter:"Dear _______,
Thank you for your inquiry on the position of SPOUSE . We appreciate your interest, and while there were many qualified applicants for the position, we regret to in form you that …"
No, can't do that. Perhaps a text message over the cell phone? "NO GO OUT AGN. HV NICE DAY :) EVN"
Nope, gotta take it like a man. My thumb hits SEND.

"Hi, this is Ephraim. Look, I don't think we should go out again"
"Yes… I… think so too."Whew! That was easy.
"Thanks for going out with me, I enjoyed your company."Yeah right, and that's why I'm breaking it off.
"Yes…" but there's the tiniest crack in her voice. I can tell she's eager to get off the phone, and I let her go.
Now I feel like a stinking sack of garbage which just sprouted two legs and walks amongst the living. I'm relieved it's over, but there's no satisfaction. Yeah, I should probably start calling around to get the next one lined up, but my blood feels like it's turned to molasses. One hundred? I have to do this a hundred times? I may be wasting time, but I need a little break.


Unknown said...

Shiduch Dating is definitely not the 'funnest' place to be. But as always, I guess it's kind of comforting to know that there really are other people out there going through the same saga of sorts.

P.S. - I'm not sure about the form letter, but the SMS was kinda cute. :)

Ephraim said...

Hi Lorelai,

Yeah. It's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes, but it's there. HEAD TOWARDS THE LIGHT!

Baleboosteh said...

Hi Evan,
I was just wondering with all these dates and that, that you are having and aranged meetings, Is it possible that you may find your perfect match in your blogger comments?
Now, as you know I am married (so I am not talking about me!) but I have come to know you and some of your values and one of those values is a lack of pretence and an admiration for people that are down to earth. Now, checking out Lorelai and her profile and the fact that she is brave enough to be hanging upside down in her profile picture tells me she is made of the right stuff (and she looks like lots of fun too!).

Now the question is are you brave enough and made of the right stuff?

(if you feel it may be a little direct approaching her, feel free to ask me to talk to her!)

Your Friend Baleboosteh :D

Unknown said...

Hmmm, now there's an interesting idea.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yaakova said...

Baleboosteh is right! Do it!

BTW, I wrote you a long and meaningful comment to this post which was promptly erased by Blogger. Grrrr...

Ephraim said...


OK, so I'll see you in a week and a half. Looking forward to it!

Unknown said...

As my 6 year old brother (whom I lovingly refer to as The Dibble) would say,

Me even. ;)

Ephraim said...

As my cousin Tooly would say, "I will for you wait to come back."

Don't you go and do something rash like go and marry some other guy while you're in the states. :)