Thursday, May 6, 2010

Shtick It To 'Em

Now that we’ve passed Lag B’omer, wedding season has begun yet again. One of the most exciting parts of any wedding, aside from the expansive smorgasbords, blasting bands, and over-the-top ruach, is of course the shtick that friends and family perform for the entertainment of the chosson and kallah.

For me, shtick is a double-edged sword. It’s always fun to concoct some hilarious in-jokey thing to do, and even more fun to plan and bring the idea to life, especially if you’re with a group of friends. However, while such personally designed shtick may be more meaningful for your friend (the chosson or kallah, take your pick), everyone knows it’s always the crazy, flashy shtick that is sure to amaze.

So guys will go all out to discover some new, inventive, or simply jaw-dropping stunt/feat to perform. Whether this may include juggling flaming torches, fanciful dance moves such as the moonwalk or break dancing, or elaborate handstand undulations, guys tend push themselves to their limits to impress.

One major “problem” with all of this is the fact that shtick basically lasts all of 30 seconds if you’re lucky, and perhaps less than that if you’re not. The rush of adrenaline takes over as the orchestra swells into that infamous “it’s time to bring the kallah over for shtick” music, the crowd stops dancing and begins to circle around, while a pair of chairs (or more, depending if parents and/or grandparents want front row seats) are pulled up for the guests of honor.

It’s a lot of pressure to make sure elaborate shtick goes well. Aside from hoping not to disappoint the chosson and kallah, depending on just what you’ve planned, you have to make sure it goes according to plan and make sure that you nor anyone else (especially the chosson, kallah and/or grandparents) get injured in any fashion. This is why there are usually a pair of guys who run up and grab each other’s hands, extending their locked arms across the front of the chosson and kallah to make sure no stray objects, be they juggled items or swinging feet, cause any harm.

Being a bit straight-laced and a stickler for safety, I’m usually one of those protector guys, and run to become the human shield the moment I see any potentially dangerous shtick about to start.

On top of all that, there is a second major “problem,” and that “problem” is of the female persuasion.

Of course, as soon as the kallah is brought over to join her brand-new-out-of-breath husband, all activity on the other side of the mechitza stops instantly. Suddenly, the entire population that formerly occupied the other half of the dance floor is standing and cheering alongside all your previous dance partners. In a matter of moments all eyes are on you, and unexpectedly, your job is no longer just to be mesamayach chosson v’kallah anymore…

I’m sure girls get a huge kick out of watching guys make fools of themselves and/or show off their talents. I know this is true because I’ve heard girls in passing as they talked about a friend’s shtick routine as “having made their night,” which certainly caused me to raise an inquisitive eyebrow.

Everyone knows that girls and guys check each other out during weddings; during the shmorg, as everyone is sitting and waiting for the chuppah to start, during the chuppah, while the newlyweds are being danced back to the yichud room, while the guests chow down on the first course, during dancing, when desert is served, as well as during bentsching, sheva berachos, and let’s not forget the lines that form in anticipation of brachos from the chosson and kallah along with a sampling of segulah wine.

However, I feel obliged to make a small protest that it simply isn’t fair that we have to be put in the spotlight while the girls hang back and gawk. I’m not in any way protesting the standards of tzniyus and gedarim of halacha and suggesting that we get to watch the girls do whatever it is they do on their side of the mechitza. I’m merely bringing to light the double standard.

I’d be willing to bet there are guys that plan their shtick accordingly, bearing in mind that they know girls, or perhaps a certain girl they’ve had their eye on, will be watching them. Although, most typical guys are probably like me and are not such fans of the unexpected scrutiny.

Either way, I think that the whole thing negatively impacts on the kavana of what the guys are trying to do – or at least the ones who are serious about being mekayaim their mitzvah or bringing happiness to the bride and groom (that IS why we go to weddings, at any rate, not because of the food or to have a good time, there is a daf in Kiddushin that talks about this – someone please supply the reference if you know it). At least I know I’m much more self conscious when this sort of thing happens, not that I’ve ever had anyone ever request to go out with me (directly or indirectly) based on some fantastic shtick I did…

So, dear readers of both the female and male variety, what are your thoughts?


  1. Fully agree, but ain't nothing gonna happen to prevent it. What, you think everyone, including women (e.g. family), will be allowed to come over and watch, but the single ones will have to stay on the other side?

  2. Nope. It's just a bit irksome and distracting. Perhaps the single girls could be a bit more discrete with the gawking...

  3. First of all - interesting post. I never really thought of it in terms of double standards, but in a way, that's exactly what it is. And when you state it so bluntly, yeah - we do gawk. Sorry. FrumJew is right - it ain't gonna change. But now that you have alerted us to the situation from a guy's POV, maybe one person at a time we can slowly shift the tide. Maybe start standing a little further back, or not on chairs. (I was recently at a wedding where some women stayed entirely on the women's side, watching the shtick from the videographer's screen!)

    For my part, it's also a bit of jealousy that I am unable to be misamayach the kallah in a similar fashion (it goes without saying that girls doing shtick for the chosson as well would be inappropriate). Female friends are limited in what they can do, for tznius reasons. Sure, the napkin jump-rope is cute when it works, and the avodah-zarah(ish) umbrella with strings hanging down can look pretty (Maypole, anyone?), but we can't do all that fun crazy stuff! And sometimes, we want to! So it's a compliment to you guys that we watch and live vicariously through you.

  4. Why do you think all the action stops and everyone rushes over to see the shtick? There's no point in dancing if the Kallah is on the other side of the mechitza. All we can do is mill around the dance floor and feel neglected. FYI, at most of the weddings I've been to the girls can never get close enough to see anything. They generally give up after a few minutes and go back to their own side.

  5. >>Everyone knows that girls and guys check each other out during weddings; during the shmorg, as everyone is sitting and waiting for the chuppah to start, during the chuppah, while the newlyweds are being danced back to the yichud room..<<

    Er, someone forgot to tell me. Seriously, how much can you tell about a guy based on his behavior at a wedding? Unless he displays total impropriety, which has happened. We're not gawking at you, anyway. We just want to see whatever it is that you're doing. There's a difference.

    And complete agreement with NYC Girl. You guys and your hats are always in the way so we can't see anything anyway. All we can do is mill about waiting for you to run out of things to do so we can get back in business. I wish you'd let us keep the kallah and satisfy yourself with the chosson. Greed, gentlemen.

    Disagree with Happy Medium, though: anyone who wants can eat fire or do the wave, you just feel too self-conscious - something that doesn't seem to afflict men (until you read this kind of post).

  6. Yup. It is a double standard. It is fun to watch the guys' shtick, but most of the time I can barely get anywhere near to see it. Which is fine, because like Bad4 said, my preference is that we keep the kallah!

    It's so frustrating, from a girl's perspective, to be dancing with the kallah and doing our own amazing shtick, only to be interupted because it's time for the kallah to go over to the men's section. It's almost insulting, as though no matter what, our shtick and dancing will never even compare to the guys. I always feel like shouting, "Hey! We are doing some awesome shtick and dancing over here on our side, just cause the men aren't allowed to watch and think they are better, doesn't mean you need to steal the kallah!"

    Also, I would like to point out that crazy shtick isn't necessarily correlated with being the most attractive. If a guy does outrageous shtick which is clearly a performance for the single girls, then I sometimes think, "Showoff," while the guys who aren't setting the floor on fire who are much more appealing.

  7. Er, someone forgot to tell me. Seriously, how much can you tell about a guy based on his behavior at a wedding?

    Bad4, not to toot my own horn, but I've gotten approached (by an intermediary) solely based on a girl witnessing my behavior at such events (where girls can see guys - doesn't just have to be weddings). I still have no idea why; I wasn't doing anything particularly impressive, and it's not like I'm super-attractive. I agree with you that it doesn't make much sense, but it does happen.

  8. OK, so you've gotten approached, FrumJew, but Bad4's comment is well-put: good shtick isn't any indication of a potential.

    If the guy in question was already being checked out, and his behavior at the wedding only added checks to the list (forgive the stereotypical language), then I can understand, if "awesome shtick" were something particularly attractive to/shared in common with the girl. But proposing a shidduch based solely on seeing a guy's shtick? That's like saying to someone, "Oh, you like fantasy novels and making scrambled eggs? I know a guy exactly like you!" It's based on nothing. (BTW - this is not a criticism of the scenario that happened to you.)

  9. HM, I couldn't agree with you more. Like I said, I completely agree that stuff like this doesn't make sense (and, for the record, I've never been approached like that at a wedding; there was no shtick involved). All I'm saying is that stuff like this still happens, and single people (as Bad4 has proven time and again) simply are put into the position where have to deal with the way other people think. So if they think they can learn something from shtick at a wedding, or if a guy is in the first row or eighth row as the chosson is marched to the bedekken, then there's always that thought in the back of our minds.

    Also, you point out that proposing a shidduch solely based on one thing like this is ridiculous, but isn't it possible that the scenario you envison - that the guy is "already being checked out" - might be more common than you think. It could be "official" checking out, or it could be that a certain girl (or her mother, or aunt) has noticed this guy a couple of times already, etc. etc. I don't know the view from midtown, but I'm guessing that happenes all the time.

  10. Oh, I have no doubt that scenario has happened multiple times! (Which is why I made that caveat in the earlier comment...) What I'm trying to say is that if a girl sees a guy, who she's never seen before, doing something fun/exciting at a wedding, and based on that wants to start checking him out - that's a little weird. But it's done all the time. I have no personal issues with it. We're just discussing it in an open forum, no?

    "...the view from midtown" - believe me, I am far from representing the views of the collective SCW. :-)

  11. The style of shtick can tell you a bit about a guy's personality though. I highly doubt that the timid wallflower is going to light his hat on fire or do backflips. Greanted, it doesn't tell you much, but just seeing how a guy may be mesamayach the chosson and kallah in an energetic fashion without overdosing on alcohol could send a very positive message. The converse is also true, especially if the guy is clearly a acting like a drunkard and generally being inappropriately rowdy.

    I agree with Bad4 about Happy Medium's remarks regarding the ability to do shtick. A lot of the time, there is only one brief window of opportunity to do shtick for both the chosson and kallah, if you're lucky one during each dance. Due to that, I'm very often doing my shtick during the chosson's mandated sit-down water break - JUST for him. It may be a little difficult and risky juggling flaming torches in a poofy gown/dress that inhibits movement and could easily catch on fire if a torch is accidentally dropped.

    I know that when I personally do more physically involved shtick, I always take off my hat, jacket, tie, watch, and roll up my sleeves to make sure I have maximum mobility. I can see where girls would be rather limited in that regard.


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