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!

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