Monday, March 12, 2007

The Shidduch Lifestyle

Another phone call, another meeting, another bright, smiling face. So we sit down and try. Usually, she's shy, so I have to start off.
"It's a little town half an hour east of San Francisco... Yes, yes, Walnut Creek sounds like a hick town but it's got a traffic light or two."
"Yes, I know my name means 'rock' in Hebrew."
"No, the scar on my neck isn't from a knife fight, it was a bronchial cleft cyst."

The key, as I'm learning, is to synthesize the two extremes. It's possible to show up for a date thinking, "This could be it, but if it's not, I've lost nothing." The first thing I learned was that date number one is always a throw-away. Any girl who's been dating for a reasonable amount of time has her shields up on the first date, and is usually reluctant to contribute too much to the conversation, so all I can do is talk. Ask questions, listen to the answers, and just try to dip my toes in the water. There's a saying that, if you go into any museum and look at the couples, you'll notice that the couples where the guy is doing all the talking are dating. The couples where the woman does all the talking are married.

The fact is, I've never gone out with a girl who was just "bad." They're all unique and beautiful in their own way, and I don't see why I can't just marry them all. After all, the Arabs are always complaining that Israel doesn't "fit into the local culture." Why not strike a blow for peace by reinstituting polygamy? But realistically, I'll start with one. I haven't struck gold yet, but I'm learning how to look.

In the beginning, my nervousness would start as a tiny crack in the subconscious about twenty four hours before the date. I'd pretend it wasn't there, look the other way, busy myself with work, but it grew just the same. I'd lie in bed until late at night practicing my moves, trying to figure out how to put my best foot forward. By the time I made it to the first meeting, I would be so exhausted I would begin to make a Pavlovian association between dating and sleep deprivation.

Without much experience under my belt, I took advice from more successful friends. The problem is that everybody seems to have the opposite advice.
"You've got to show up thinking that this could be it."
"Nah, show up thinking, 'I've got nothing to lose from this.'"
Some guys go out with two girls a week, some with one a month. One of my fellow Yeshivah guys married the fourth girl he dated. Cousin Shmulik got married after over 200.

The second date, I start getting to know the person, she's a bit more comfortable, and she'll open up a bit more. Her personality usually comes out on the end of the second/beginning of the third date. One thing I'm finding useful is the walk-and-talk. I'll set a meeting point, think of an endpoint, and then we can walk along, and there's less pressure to talk. The silences are more comfortable, until she asks, "Um, why are you walking so fast?" I have to snap out of it, as what I would consider a casual stroll, others experience as the Bataan Death March.

The trick is to find the happy medium. On the one hand, it's important to take dating seriously, and not to move forward blindly. But thinking about the date constantly is very destructive. I try to let my subconscious chew on it a bit, like a cow working its cud. On the one hand, I to keep the pace going, but on the other hand, dating can't rule my life. I always call back the next day, but that doesn't mean I have to go out every other day. I try to go out two, or a maximum of three, times per week. I try to bear in mind that if there is any question, I can always go on another date (unless she says no.) Just the knowledge of this fact takes pressure off the date I'm on. But every date I go on with the wrong girl is lost time.

To approach this calmly, it's important to integrate dating into an overall "Shidduch Lifestyle." Yet, at the same time, I can't get too comfortable. It's important to remember that the entire goal of this lifestyle is to reach that endpoint where it all comes together, and I leave the dating world forever. It's easy to despair, but then I go to shul, look around, and see all the other guys who got married, and figure my number is bound to come up some time. It's in God's hands, but I hope it's sooner rather than later.


Baleboosteh said...

It is in G-d's hands and your number will come up for sure, you just need to go with the flow and it sounds like you are doing a pretty good job.

You are such a character - I loved the bit where you said "you'll notice that the couples where the guy is doing all the talking are dating. The couples where the woman does all the talking are married."

....Gosh if you went by that, my husband would say we must have been married forever!! Lol!

PS. Thanks for adding me to your blogroll

Ephraim said...

Thanks for the warm words. Glad to have you on my blogroll. Thanks for adding me to yours.