Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How About HER Summer?

On a recent Shabbos, ASoG and were guests at a meal shared by a small group of single young women who are dating. Of course, since I'm no longer in that stage of life, and as a part-time Shadchan, I always take any opportunity I get to hear what daters are saying. We eagerly listened and participated in what turned out to be a rather lively discussion.

Of the many points talked about, one in particular really irked me. One speaker remarked that she has struggled through numerous first dates wherein the conversation was stilted and didn't flow naturally. She explained that the reason behind the awkward verbal exchanges was the fact that there was no real exchange. On each date, she would inquire about the guy's interests, his family, what he did over the summer, what he's studying in college, etc - and not once did he then ask her about her life and interests.

"I just mentioned that I spent the last summer in HASC - no less than 3 times - and he still couldn't take the hint to ask me how my summer was!?" She complained in an exasperated tone.

I believe that she has every right to complain about this lack of social skills. I learned a term from Dr. Pelcovitz that applies to counseling but is very appropriate for this scenario as well: "volley."

Imagine if you were asked a friend to play volleyball with you, and he/she gladly agrees. You soon discover that every time you serve the ball, he/she ignores you and it thuds on the ground somewhere near his/her feet. That's not much of a game, is it?

The same concept applies here. In order to have a decent conversation, each dater needs to volley back to the other in order to keep discussion going as well as to have mutual and reciprocal information sharing. If he asks you how many sibling you have and what they do, it's proper to then ask him about his own siblings after you finish talking. If she asks about your summer activities or your Shana Aleph experience, it's only fitting to take the time to let her talk about what she did as well.

This doesn't have to be done in a rigid, mathematical way of exact give-and-take, firing back the very same question or introduction that your date initially offered. You can use something they said as a springboard to turn the attention back toward him/her. Each person should get their fair share of talking about him/herself - not to fulfill some egotistical need to flaunt their accomplishments, but to share part of who they are, what they're about, how they think, what they're like with their date.

If you don't really care to find out these sorts of things, then why are you on a date with them in the first place?

I'm pretty sure that the guys these girls had been out with were rather inexperienced and thus didn't really have a background of what it means to talk with girls on a date. Even so, I would hope they'd have some level of common sense to understand what I'm talking about. If not, then I pray they listen to feedback from shadchanim, assuming those shadchanim care enough to report such things as "he didn't ask a single thing about me the whole time!"

Most veteran daters know this by now. It seems simple, right? But if several young women complain that they've each had more than a handful of dates where this stilted conversation occurs, it seems like it could be a real problem.

I remember reading in "The Art of the Date" (I think) that one particular married woman used to take her younger brothers on practice "dates" so that they would learn how to do the sorts of basic things expected and avoid issues like what I've been describing. It stands to reason that shiurim discussing preparing to date need to cover more than halachos of yichud and hashkafa. You certainly won't get far enough to know if she's the one if you can't even talk to her about basic, fun stuff.

Also, for girls out there suffering from this unintentional neglect, I say take matters into your own hands and find something he said to use as a segue into talking about yourself. Although this might get annoying, I think it might help clue him in better rather than silently imploring to yourself that he ask about you. In either case, I think the guy is more at fault, but I don't believe a girl should just mentally throw her hands up in frustration, either.

So guys out there who are starting to date: Ask about her, too!

Have any of the female readers encountered this sort of behavior?


  1. In your opinion, and based on your experience, what do you think the dating community needs to do to address this problem? Better pre-dating shiurim, etc?

  2. I can't say. I feel like it comes down to social skills. It comes with the ability to hold a conversation.

    You would think that two people who are well educated and versed in both Judaic and secular subjects would be able to find something to talk abt..but alas. Too often do we find ourselves at a standstill.

    You mentioned that perhaps the girl should just start talking about herself if he doesn't ask- I sometimes do that but you can only do it so much because you don't want
    1) monopolize the conversation and make it all about you
    2) you want to learn about the other person as well.

  3. I don't think it's an issue fo finding something to talk about, but being able to continue a conversation and make it a reciprocal give-and-take, hence volley.

    I agree with your two points. I was trying to say that hopefully by starting the guy off, leading him into the idea of finding out more about you would would draw his interest and he'd then go on to ask questions on his own. There might be something you offer that will pique his curiosity, leading to him to inquire further or about tangential topics.

    At least that's how it always worked for me in a far more natural fashion. Heck, it still works in marriage every now and then.

    I certainly wouldn't recommend talking about yourself the whole time.

  4. I've experienced this once before, but the guy just seemed really nervous. He got better with time.

    I've also been in a situation where I would try to volley back to the guy, but the response was minimal. He asked a lot of questions, really quickly. When I was able to get a question in for him, he gave short answers and then focused right back on me. I don't mind sharing and talking about myself a little bit, but it got pretty uncomfortable because I felt like I was the only one talking.


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