Finding Mr. Rightby Rachel Eden October 3, 2017
Part 1 of 3: The Ground Rules
Blind dates are like a choreographed dance. She Googles him. He reads her Tweets. She makes the call. He makes sure to miss it. Twice.
On second thought, maybe a blind date is like a ping pong match. He cracks a joke. She tries to crack a smile. He pulls out her seat. She pulls out her iPhone. He pays. She pays. They go dutch.
Perhaps we should do away with the metaphors. Blind dates are brutal honesty in action. A perfect storm of expectations, hopes, dreams, good steaks and great manicures.
The irony of The Blind Date is that when you’re an Orthodox Jewish single, your eyes are wide open. You’ve read his/her shidduch profile (dating resume). You’ve called his/her mentor, friend, old roommate, last employer, and uncle’s sister-in-law’s cousin from Israel. You know what kind of guy or gal you’re about to meet from different perspectives. You know his or her education, work experience, income bracket, weight, height, anger management issues, debts, addictions, marital history, number of children, outlook on life, attitude toward spirituality and community. On paper, if you do it right, you’ll know Bachelor(ette) #1 intimately on paper like an FBI agent profiling a serial killer.
For me, this is the biggest bonus of dating in the chareidi (ultra-Orthodox) world. It’s an actual mitzvah (commandment) to share pertinent information about a shidduch (possible match) to the inquiring caller as this is critical to building a successful marriage. I need to know if this guy has a gambling problem. He needs to know about my feelings toward chocolate (my one true love).
This brings me to Ground Rule #1: Do Your Research. The research phase requires precision and a magnifying glass. The more you research, the clearer your picture of the marital candidate. It’s not a full picture, of course, but it’s a really good start.
While this might strike some as more apt for a doctoral dissertation, contrast it with the non-Orthodox approach. Often, courtship begins with an attraction, follows with some level of emotional investment and the experience of physical touch, and concludes with a commitment. Along the way a lot can be missed. I know many singles who needed to break things off with a partner because one wanted to marry and/or have children while the other didn’t, or there was too wide a gap in faith and religious practice, or one had a different expectation of what a partner should provide.
Within the Orthodox Jewish dating world, this preliminary intellectual exploration is the norm. Before my perception of this individual is colored by my feelings toward him or our physical chemistry, I need to know that this match actually makes sense. We are building a home together so we need to have similar values and vision for how that home runs.
This leads me to Ground Rule #2: Date Him ‘til You Hate Him. I know this one sounds harsh but hear me out. Consider that you’ve already done the hard work of checking out your date’s references, IQ, and psychiatric history. You finally go out on a date. I’ll use myself as an example. One evening before a blind date, not unlike any other, I went to my favorite hair salon and then bought a new outfit. I left work a little early to give myself time to prepare mentally and physically. We spoke on the phone briefly to set up our date and create some basis for banter. Despite the thick Brooklyn accent, I decided to see if he was The One.
I was living in midtown Manhattan at the time, so I had to take a long elevator down to my lobby to meet the lucky fella. The buildup was almost too much to bear. Finally, our eyes locked. Oh no. Hair gel. Gobs of it. Also, the loud smacking of chewing gum and the strong smell of a toxic amount of cologne. My instinctive Run! directive was overcome by a good measure of common sense. Keep an open mind. This guy is more than hair and an accent.
The evening unfolded uneventfully. I did check my watch here and there. His edges softened a little when he talked about his family but he didn’t seem too interested in hearing about mine. He was chivalrous, opening doors and insisting to pay. He was embarrassing when he spoke impolitely to the waiter. I filed away my observations, watching these small signs of big traits carefully. There were many moments when I saw something decent in him. We went out again. I didn’t rush to stop seeing him, despite our lack of conversation, because I wanted to give my full hishtadlut (effort). I wanted to date him until I was entirely certain he was not for me.
To Be Continued in the November issue: Finding Mr. Right: A Journey through Orthodox Jewish Dating, Part Two: Of Kissing Toads.