Thursday, November 26, 2009

Shidduch Vision and First Phone Calls

I don't really follow the more yeshivish news so much, but I saw this link from Yeshiva World News posted at Bad 4 Shidduchim and found it very interesting. In short, Gedolei Hador have decided to sanction a frum video-dating service - that will help alleviate the disappointment and waste of money that could arise from participating in a long distance shidduch. With the new system, a person visits a ShidduchVision studio and has up to three video-conference sessions with the prospective candidate, after which he/she decides if an actual trip is worthwhile or not.

I think this is kind of cool. It makes a lot of sense to me. The one downside I can see at the moment is that the anticipated first phone call awkwardness is upped to a whole new level. You don't just see a picture of a person (at least theoretically, and more practically, the guy seems to be the only one shown a picture) and nervously dial their number/answer the phone. Instead, you have to dress up as though for a date, and for all intents and purposes, this basically is a first set of dates.

I do wonder if these actually count at all toward their overall date tally. Especially in the yeshivish world where a quota on dates seems to be the thing to do, with certain numbers means reaching certain stages. As much as one can learn from this sort of encounter, I would hope that the significance is minimized, perhaps counting all three (if indeed all three meetings are utilized) as just a first date. First dates are always (or at least should be) viewed merely as means to know if it is worthwhile to see the person again. Most of the time, I would presume a second date is worthwhile, unless the other person is so hideously vile, or clearly unstable/violent/rude or something of that nature.

I'm sure a lot can be gained from the video conferencing, but I have found having an extended first phone conversation (and add to that knowing how the person looks) can be beneficial too. Upon further thought, I'm not sure that the video meeting is any better than the picture plus phone call. But that may be just me, or at least the more modern circles wherein the first phone call isn't always just a quick 10-minute "How do you do, my dear? When are you next available for an outing? Starbucks next Thursday at five sound splendid. Until then, tah tah!" So perhaps I should rephrase the beginning of this paragraph and say that this new innovation can be very helpful for this specific dating market (Lakewood, etc).

I've heard recommendations from credible sources (such as Rav Goldvicht, at his dating 101 shiur) that first phone calls aren't meant to be so lengthy, and certainly shouldn't be a "first date" sort of conversation. Invariably, I have found out that, more often then not, the phone call becomes something more than a quick calender check session. When I first started dating, I had no clue what I was doing. This newbie nervousness amped up the awkwardness of that initial call, and thus the duration was typically short.

More recently, I've had first phone calls that have neared the three-hour mark. I definitely do not think that those were by any means standard (especially since neither shidduch really went anywhere in the end). One recent first call that I had was a little over an hour long, didn't drag out, was very casual and nice, and we still fit in the date scheduling at the end. That, I think, is a good/better way to handle things. This type of conversation certainly cuts down on the rigidity of the first actual meeting to a degree, and now the person you're going out with isn't a totally foreign entity.

I also think that a semi-decent first phone call can be an indicator of sorts for how the first date will go as well. True, there is no guarantees in such things, but just as point of empirical evidence: the shortest first phone call I had in in recent memory lasted under 20 minutes, and she dropped me after the first date - which has NEVER happened before. True, I must be dan lekaf zechus and presume she saw something was terribly off (which then makes me feel bad because it I then mentally put MYSELF into that hideously vile/bad person category I mentioned earlier). As a point of etiquette, I think most everyone deserves a second date - Rav Goldvicht even mentioned a third date as part of this initial procedure. So I can't help but wonder why she and I were so far off that she wouldn't consider a second date. Instead of thinking about how terrible I might be, I'm going to presume that the first phone call/her own research wasn't enough to really know if the idea was really shayach or not, and that she only found that out upon meeting me. Also, as I mentioned in the post about rejection, at least she was the one who nixed me, and not the other way around.

With regard to inyanei d'yoma (even if it is after midnight), I would like to publicly say that I am thankful for all the experiences that I've had so far, both good and bad, as well as all the wonderful people who have helped me as shadchanim, mentors, and sources of advice. I really do appreciate every ounce of effort they make to assist me in my quest for a spouse; especially those who have endeavored to keep me in mind and set me up more than once. I hope all their hard work pays off soon...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fame Thy Name Is Shades of Grey

This is pretty exciting. Apparently, a comment I left here on Bad for Shidduchim's blog has generated a new, semi-controversial (since when is any major discussion in dating/shidduchim not controversial?) regarding the definition of chemistry.

Being mentioned on a famous blog like hers kind of makes me feel like a celebrity of sorts...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Is This Blog Tzniusdik? & Davening For Others In Shidduchim

Rabbi Gil Student on Hirhurim has a great post on the tzniusdik nature (or lack thereof) of blogging. Check it out here.

The post got me thinking, since Rabbi Student specifically mentions the thorny issue of blogging about dating, which is indeed a subject of discussion here. I certainly hope I'm not being too forward with information, even though I do my best to keep everything anonymous, (and no one really knows who I'm dating anyway). I definitely abide by Rav Goldvicht's opinion that any and all direct discussion of dating is basically a bad idea, and I would also feel horrible knowing I've ever hurt anyone's feelings in this area - especially former dates. I prefer to avoid the specific details of my dating life anyway, and like to focus on more general ideas related to the dating world. Let's hope I can maintain this proper boundary of modesty.

In other news, the first YU Connects shidduch was a bit of a bust, which is fine. It was a good first experience for using the system, at least. I think I will better know how to understand if there is real hashkafic compatibility when I am suggested matches in the future (that was the main issue this time). I sort of knew that going into the shidduch, and I honestly wasn't expecting a yes, having just received a large number of rejections from the suggested girl when I had accepted on my end. So her acceptance caught me by surprise, and I figured I didn't have anything to lose, which I didn't. In the end, I simply met another great person who isn't for me...

That leads me into the topic I really wanted to write about... Davening for others also dating/in shidduchim.

I personally have a fairly long list of both guys and girls I know, friends from way back when, and more recent acquaintances, that I mention in every Shemonah Esrei. That they should all have bracha and hatzlacha in their dating, and that they should find their zivug at the appropriate time - all according to G-d's will. I can't describe in words how wonderful it is when I hear that one of the names on my lists needs to be taken off because they got engaged. Especially when it happens that I remove two names because they got engaged to one another (which usually happens when I know that they've been dating).

The boundless level of simcha is such a stark contrast to the unfortunate reality of sometimes having to stop davening for a specific name on a refuah shelayma list because that individual succumbed to his/her illness. I also sometimes forget that someone got engaged (usually within a few days of hearing the news) and I have to catch myself when I get to their name. I usually pause, smile to myself, and then continue with the other, less fortunate people who still need siyata d'shmaya finding their intended spouse.

I daven for myself too, of course, always at the end of everyone else. It's an idea mentioned in the gemara in Brachos (I can't remember the exact daf at the moment, it's late and my Brachos isn't in my room at YU...) that when you and a friend need the same thing, you should daven for them first, then yourself, and through some spiritual mechanism of sorts, you will get answered first. I'm not going to doubt the veracity of this gemara, but I have seen several friends on my list answered before me. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, I am always overjoyed at hearing the good news of friends finally finding the right one. Maybe I'm just not understanding the exact perameters of the "how-to" instructions provided there.

Anyway, the more specific issue I wanted to bring up was davening for those you've gone out with in the past and with whom the relationship didn't work out. Sure, there are lots of people who daven for shidduchim everyday, and have many of their friends in mind (as previously mentioned) - but do people daven for ex-dates?

I do, and I think it's an important thing that everyone should make room for in their otherwise me-oriented tefillah. It doesn't matter whether I ended the relationship, she did (and whether I was upset by that fact or not), or if it was a mutual decision. I think that everyone has a right to find true happiness with the proper person at the appropriate time. It may even be a bit of an ego-killer to employ this element in one's own davening, but I think that we could also use a bit of ego-deflation every now and then.

As I have mentioned in the past, every person that you go out with is a link in a greater chain of events that will eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later) lead you to the one. There is always something to be gained from each dating experience, so why not show some gratitude to that person, and the Ribono Shel Olam, by requesting they find success in their search? True, it can be painful to remember the names of certain previous dates, for one reason or another. However, I think the greater impact of putting real heart-felt kavana and good will that stems from the soul provides a measure of healing and self-improvement that everyone can benefit from.

Having said that, I haven't yet removed any of those names from my list, unfortunately. While it pains me to know that my friends are still having difficulty finding their spouses, it bothers me in a different, and sometimes more troublesome fashion, when I know that some really great girls out there are still single (if I may be haughty enough to presume that everyone I went out with is really great in her own way). I don't feel guilty for not being the answer to their prayers, because I know deep down that things wouldn't have worked out for whatever reason. But they do deserve menuchas hanefesh from their efforts to find a husband. I honestly do an occasional check on OnlySimchas (usually when I'm there when I do a confirmation about news I've heard regarding a friend - I'm not an OnlySimchas addict/stalker, mind you) to see if any of them have finally found the right one.

I wonder if any of them daven for me... hmmm.

This brings to mind the idea of helping set up ex-dates with other people you know, which is a pretty big chesed, in my view. I would very much like to be of service in that area, but I'm just not good at thinking of couplings, I guess. I wish I could help others out in this area...

So sadly, my list of ex-dates to daven for grows longer still, and my own journey continues onward. I hope that I can start removing those names one by one (along with the others on my lists, as the case may be), in the near future - ken yehi ratzon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fortune Cookies: Part 3

This is beginning to get a little ridiculous. The first fortune from today's sushi lunch was:

"You will be lucky in love."

The cookie folk have got to stop playing around with me like this... although I do have my first YU Connects date tomorrow, so who knows. The "Learn Chinese" word was "jiang" - "ginger," yet another food item... or is that hair color?

The second fortune read:

"You discover treasures where others see nothing unusual."

This certainly is a nice idea, and I think it fits me to an extent. I do tend to notice things about people and life in general that others pass by without notice. However, the corresponding Chinese word was "pian yi" - "cheap." So I'm not sure if the cookie is being sincere, or attempting to be funny be inferring that I'm a bargain hunter of some sort - which isn't as apropos to my personality.

More posts coming soon, hopefully. I've been bogged down with school, but the need to write has been nagging me the past few days. Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What Do Socks And Shidduchim Have In Common?

I just finished matching up/folding/rolling (whatever) about two dozen pairs of socks that I had left over from my late night laundry run this past Thursday, and of course my mind floated into the topic of dating.

I've always joked to myself (and occasionally to my roommate, who is usually the only one to witness me working my way through my many pairs of socks) that matching up two socks after a load of laundry is basically like making a shidduch. It is particularly difficult for me when I have several different kinds of very similar looking black socks with gold marks on the toe end. You'd be surprised how different, yet nearly-identical, four or five different brands of this sort of sock can be. Just when I think I've found a pair and am ready to roll/tuck them together, I notice that one is slightly shorter than the other, or the gold toe pattern is actually different, or that the upper cuff end is wider or thicker than its proposed partner.

And so it goes, on and on for a while until I've figured them all out. The white athletic socks I have for my gym class are far less picky, and usually have a clear Nike or Reebok symbol on them (sometimes a yellow or grey toe) to distinguish them. With the black socks, however, I often reach the point of having 6 or 7 dangling in one hand by the toe end while my other hand searches for one to visually compare to the others. Aside from the actual physical design, the older socks are noticeably paler (shifting into a slightly navy/grey shade due to numerous washings). Therefore, even if I have two socks that are of the exact same make, I might continue searching for another that is of a newer batch to make sure the two tones match up.

Shidduchim in general, I think, are quite the same way. It's a lengthy process wherein one is constantly sifting through potential matches to find just the right one. The ordeal can become frustrating at times, but the effort is necessary, and the end result is worth all the trouble (G-d willing). Just when you think you've found the right one, one thing shows up that makes everything clear that things don't quite fit.

I have also personally experienced the phenomenon that is known by the scientific term "sock-gnome dryer theft." Namely, after a load of laundry has been removed from the dryer, all items of clothing neatly folded and put away, one ends up with a sock (or two or three) that has no "shidduch." Certainly, this is a great annoyance - what use is one lone sock!? Putting aside the notion of making sock-puppets (I'm not that weird, no offense to the sock-puppet lovers in the readership), I have found that if I wait until the next round of laundry, or the one after that, the missing sock miraculous shows up!

For me, this an encouraging sign in the realm of dating, and a possible source of strength for those victims of the "shidduch crisis." We have numerous sources in Chazal (see the beginning for Masechta Sotah, for one) that everyone has their appropriate zivug. True, you may not find him/her at exactly the moment you were hoping for, but that doesn't me he/she isn't out there, waiting to be found and/or find you. Eventually, with HaShem's help, we'll all meet our proper partner in life and begin our unified lives together.

Yes, I am aware that the possibility exists that perhaps the gnomes also decided to steal a sock from a similar pair, thus leaving two single socks from different pairings that happen to match. But is that really so bad? Particularly if they do fit well with very little differences. I am not going to extend this directly into the dating world and say that when someone G-d forbid dies young (lo aleinu) or some other terrible thing happens, and the remaining spouse finds happiness a second time that this is a plausible explanation. Just food for thought.

Another sock-related shidduch point that came to mind is the situation I have encountered on several occasions when my clothing hamper is brimming and I am running dangerously low on clean socks. Drastic times call for drastic measures, and I have worn a pair of socks that really weren't identical, but both being of the darker variety, I figured I could get away with it.

Therein lies the lesson of people be so utterly makpid (particular) about all the most minutia when they evaluate a date. Sure, his ears might not be quite level, or she has that small beauty mark next to her nose, he isn't quite as tall as you expected, or her eyes/hair aren't the color you depict in your dreams (or some other fairly trivial point) - but does that really matter? I went out with someone who was exactly 5 feet, if not slightly shorter. While I am not 6-feet tall, I still towered over her and the height difference really threw me off when we initially met on the street corner before proceeding to Starbucks. However, once we proceeded to sit down at our table with our drinks, we were basically eye-level and I could easily match her gaze and focus on her face (which is where a guy should be looking anyway, hopefully). Over the course of the date I totally forgot about how short she was, and after the second date I honestly didn't care at all. I guess that's representative of the few times I've worn socks of drastically different heights based on necessity.

(Update: 11-8): Another thought that occurred to me today is the issue of age difference. On more than one occasion I've had to pair up two socks of the same variety, but one clearly older than the other based on its faded shade of black. True, I am sometimes worried that someone will notice that one sock is noticeably darker than the other, but that is also a point that matters very little. The societal norm is that the guy is typically older than the girl by a year or a few years. But, that doesn't mean the possibility of the girl being older than a guy is an impossible, or worse, unacceptable scenario. There are stories of many gedolim who married a woman who was older than they were, such as the Chofetz Chaim, whose wife was 9 years older than him.

I personally might think that is a little much for us normal folk (when compared to a tzadik such as he was), but does 1, 2, or 3 year age superiority for the girl really a big deal? The best quote I ever heard about this particular notion was from Rabbi Pesach Krohn during the annual Tisha B'Av Chofetz Chaim video (is there a coincidence that these two stories are related? I think not). He mentioned the story of Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch and how he, too, married a woman who was older than him. The quote from Rav Hirsch that he cited was something to the effect of "For what I need to accomplish [as a Jewish community leader], I can't marry a child." Definitely something to think about, in spite of the acknowledged trend that girls mature (intellectually) faster than guys.

A bigger issue that I have come across is wearing two socks that really don't match at all. If I had nothing else to wear because of a bout of extreme laziness in the doing laundry department, would I wear a white sock and a black sock?

Please note that I am not making a race issue about this, I hope no readers think that little of me (though I have often seen racist sentiments expressed among my peers, which is a sad by-product of their insular upbringing).

As a general hashkafic notion, though- what if the two people are so completely different? That doesn't rule out the possibility of something working out. I am sure many people can attest to couples they know wherein the man and woman are like "night and day," as the saying goes. I personally know a couple where the wife is from a very chassidic/yeshivish background and the husband is from the Tzioni/Carlebach crowd. Never in a million years would I have pictured them together. All three of us were NCSY advisors, and it just so happened that there weren't enough spaces for all the advisers to be part of the Motzei Shabbos activity, so the two of them were left behind at the hotel with the Regional director and support staff. They struck up a conversation, and the rest is history. They're now happily married and have a baby girl. G-d works in mysterious ways.

So next time you are offered a suggestion that seems not quite what you're looking for, but the basic necessities of good middos, the right level of religious observance and basic physical attraction are there - try being open minded. You never know where you might end up - maybe even under a chupah!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Leman Achai V'Ray-ai...

One of the great things about being in the grey/undefined area of hashkafa is the ability to sort of blend in and enjoy socializing/learning from most every group out there.

Take tonight for example, when I attended the annual R' Shlomo Carlebach Hillulah sponsored by the "Netzach Yisrael" club and presided over by Rav Reichman (the go-to Rabbi for anything Carlebach on campus at YU). True, there were a lot of jokes going around before the event about the guys who would be in attendance - people used terms like hippies or druggies - which I think is rather offensive in general. But the jokers have it all wrong.

The actual guys in attendance were some of the most spiritually in-tuned people I know. They range from the very Tzioni to the more Charedi/yeshivish, although the Tzioni/sruga type definitely composed the majority of the crowd gathered in the Rubin shul tonight. These guys might not be the ones sitting in the new beis medrish until 1 AM every night, but they really lead a life of spirituality that (I think) can't compare to those who simply bury themselves in seforim and neglect to develop their more spiritual side.

I have found that Carlebach music has far-reaching appeal. It seems that nearly everyone on campus, across the gamut of the hashkafic prism, enjoy the soul-stirring niggunim R' Shlomo composed - as well as those of the more recent neo-Carlebach style compositions, such as Eitan and Shlomo Katz.

A very beautiful example of this phenomenon is the weekly Carlebach Minyan that some friends organize here at YU. The Minyan was founded three years ago in response to the lack of Friday night davening similar to what many of us had experienced during our time in Israel. What started off with a meager 30-40 people has exploded to upwards of 100 men per week (and around 20-ish women as well - they just enlarged the women's section for a fourth time!).

The composition of the minyan would shock just about anybody, I would think. Every hashkafa found on campus is represented - even groups that might not otherwise get along or find themselves in one another's company during the week. Hashkafic differences are put aside for an hour-plus of amazing achdus and singing that has to be heard to be believed. The number of black hatters often comes close to, or does in fact, out number the presumed stereotypical Carlebachian guys. It's a wonderful feeling to be a part of such an uplifting weekly event, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who spends Shabbos the YU area (especially students who might not otherwise stay in YU for Shabbos).

Anyway, while it is true that the more yeshivish spectrum wasn't as well represented tonight at the hillulah (most were at night seder or otherwise occupied, presumably), I was quite glad that my lab was cancelled early enough for me to stop by for half an hour to take in the beauty of the music.

There was a fellow playing the violin along with the singing, and I must say that his accompaniment was gorgeous! The versatility of the violin always amazes me; it has a range that goes from heart-wrenching ballad to upbeat, get out of your seat sing and dance along. From what I understand, it takes an enormous amount of effort and talent to excel at playing the violin (due to the intricate method of playing it), and this man really added a whole different level to the celebration that wasn't there last year when we just had guitars and hand-drums.

So while I may not be a typical Carlebach guy by any stretch of the imagination (although some have thought I was, on occasion), it was quite fun and inspirational to take a moment to escape from the grind of the work week and enter a realm of elevated musical inspiration.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ah, Rejection, How Sweet It Is.

So it turns out after an amazing date #2, I've been declined a third date. Such is the way of life - and now I have to look into the possibility of getting a different date for this week.

I am not in any way crushed, or emotionally impacted by her decision to not pursue things further. In fact, I'm a bit relieved that it was her and not me who made the call to end the shidduch. I haven't really had to make that decision when there wasn't anything overtly negative (IE Red Flags), so it was kind of nice that I didn't have to make a difficult choice (though presumably, something may have come up on a later date, at any rate - hey that rhymed).

What is interesting to note is that I had been listening to a shiur on dating given by Rabbi Avraham Braun where he mentioned this specific point about being rejected. I'm not sure where I got these shiurim from, since they seemed to have been on my iPod for a while - but after a quick search I found them on the Ohr Somayach website - which makes sense given that I figured out by listening that he was an Ohr Somayach Rav. The shiurim are geared toward guys and have a yeshivish slant, but he presents a lot of good advice in general, and the shiurim are certainly worth a listen for any guy who is dating. I'm not sure shiur it wherein he discussed the notion I'm about to mention - the categorization of these shiurim on my iPod is a bit wonky - they're not in order or labelled specifically by number in the series... So I guess you'll have to liste to them all, which I can assure you is not a waste of time by any means.

Anyway, the point he mentioned specifically (which I had never heard before, and found quite unique and interesting) was regarding what one should daven for in reference to a shidduch. Specifically, he made mention how one should continue to daven during the shidduch dating, that the outcome should be good, etc (this I had heard before). However, he then remarked that one should request that if someone is going to say "No" at some point (thus ending the shidduch dating) a guy should ask G-d that it be the girl who says "No" and not him.

He gave two reasons for this: 1) It removes the guy from a possible slight against the girl with regard to bein adam l'chaveiro in hurting her feelings for rejecting her and 2) The guy can take the rejection better. I'm not going to discuss the nature of how true #2 is, since some guys may be more sensitive than others. Nor am I going to elaborate on #1 since there might be a few feminist readers out there who think the reverse bein adam l'chaveiro issue from the girl toward the guy is just as equally valid. No offense to either group intended.

I can definitely say it was a relief for me not to have to turn her down for another date (I was actually hoping for a third one), so I do believe that Rabbi Braun's advice was correct. The timing of me having just listened to the shiur is quite coincidental, or rather has a hashgacha pratis aura to it. I'm a big fan of hashgacha pratis in general, and find it very neat to see it manifested in my life. Either way, I'm glad I was aware of this point, and can appreciate the rejection that much more because of it.

I still maintain that the most recent dates I've been out with have only increased in quality of middos and general overall amazing-ness. So hopefully my next shidduch suggestion will be even better than this one was... as I recently read on another blog (forget which) and recall having heard from one of the kollel rabbeim in my hometown, each successive shidduch brings you one step closer to your real bashert.

I hope I don't have too many more steps to go...

PS - I also mean no harm in using the designation "girls" referring to the female of our species. I just find the terminology "men" and "women" to be a little too academic at times - and while I like the term "guys" in reference to males, I don't know of a similar, neutral term for females. And no, I don't think "Guys and Dolls" really works. If anyone has a suggestion for the female equivalent to the term "guy," then by all means post a response and let me know.

PPS - I've seen that the hit counter has been going up a bit lately (in a modest fashion), so I know someone is reading this thing. I would very much appreciate any and all comments, including those of a constructive critical nature (but not bashing). So comment away!