July 11, 2010 at 5:30 PM 4 comments

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This blog post is dedicated to the speedy recovery of Dorothy Koplow.

As we often do, Basia, Alex and I spend a good part of Saturday lunch talking about our children’s marriage prospects.

Basia* was enthusiastic about a tactic that her friend Jeanette applied in her quest to marry off a son who has rejected a college education in favor of “learning” Torah at a yeshiva in Monsey, New York.

“Jeanette was on a date at Starbucks with a guy she met on JDate and he wasn’t very interesting,” Basia said. “She happened to notice a kind of religious looking girl at a nearby table and she thought, ‘What a sweet looking girl. She might just be right for my son.”

“Wait,” I said. “Jeanette’s on a date with a guy and she’s scouting around for a girl to marry her son?”

“It was her second date with the guy and she was bored –”

“Why was she going out with him again?”

“She was giving him a second chance,” said Basia.

“How fair-minded of her.”

“Don’t judge until you hear the whole story,” Alex said.

Like I was going to change my mind.

“So Jeanette goes over to the girl,” Basia said. “She sees she’s got a stack of books and they’re all medical textbooks.”

“Jeanette goes over to a total stranger and chats her up?” I asked.

“There’s something strange about that?” Alex asked.

Basia said, “Okay, they start talking and Jeanette finds out that the girl is from St. Louis. She’s pre-med at Touro.”

“And … this girl and Jeanette’s high-school graduate son have what exactly in common?” I asked.

“Well, the girl tells Jeanette that she’s lonely,” Basia said. “She’s really shy and she has no friends at school.”

Basia said the girl’s religious community was cold and unfeeling because it had not taken her under its wing.

“Doesn’t the girl have to do something to make some friends?” I said.

“She was really nice, according to Jeanette.”

“The girl is strange and Jeanette is strange,” I said.

“Maybe you’re jumping to conclusions,” Alex said.

“What happened to Jeanette’s date?”

“He’s not important to the story,” said Basia.

“Jeanette tells this girl about her son,” Alex said.

“And now they’re engaged?”

“Not yet,” said Basia. “But they have met and they really like each other.”

I said, “The girl is pre-med and Jeanette’s son is pre-unemployment.”

“It could be a perfect match,” Alex said.

“For whom?” I asked.

“Don’t you get it?” Basia said. “The girl is shy. She’s never going to meet anybody.”

“You’re saying that if it wasn’t for Jeanette, this girl would spend the rest of her life alone?”

“Shyness is a liability,” said Basia.

“Actually, for a girl it’s not a liability at all,” Alex said.

“Plenty of men like shy women.”

Basia said, “Why do you think I married Alex? I was too shy to meet anybody else.”

Alex and Basia have been married for almost thirty years. They pride themselves on being practical and honest. They do not offend easily.

“We’re talking about a nineteen-year-old girl from out of town who goes to a commuter college and her life is over because she hasn’t met anybody she likes yet.”

“She’s shy!” Basia said.

“Who’s not shy? I’m shy. You’re shy. We’re all shy.”

“I don’t understand why you think it was wrong of Jeanette to approach this girl,” Alex said.

“Would you do that?” I asked.

Basia said, “Of course.”

Alex said, “Definitely.”

“I take it this story has a happy ending — ”

“A potentially happy ending,” Alex said.

“The girl goes on to become a doctor and … the boy sits in this yeshiva and ‘learns?'”

“For many religious girls, this would be an ideal scenario,” said Basia.

“Until they wake up at forty and realize that they let a guy sponge off of them for the past twenty years,” I said.

“Maybe they don’t see it that way,” Alex said.

“If you had a daughter, would you want her to marry a guy with a high school diploma who doesn’t contribute to the household expenses?”

“Barbara, you are so sexist!” Alex said.

“Call it what you like,” I said. “I don’t want my son to marry a girl who has no formal education beyond high school.”

“The kids in our kids’ generation don’t date,” Basia said. “They go out in groups. They never feel lonely and they never have any incentive to find a mate.”

I said, “I speak for all of humankind when I say that sex is a stronger incentive than going to the movies with your friends.”

“But why do you think Jeanette is weird for coming on so strong to this girl?” Alex asked.

“Jeanette is on her own date — and she’s proxy-dating for her son. I hope her date brought a book with him to pass the time.”

“We don’t care about the date!” said Basia. “Jeanette is worried about her son. He’s a loser.”

“Nothing strange about Jeanette fobbing off her n’er-do’well son onto a lonely, ignorant girl,” I said.

“She’s not ignorant,” Basia said. “She’s pre-med.”

“But what’s in it for her?”

“We’re only looking at this from Jeanette’s point of view,” Alex said. “She has an un-marriageable son.”

“In due time, she’ll have a divorced son,” I said.

“Maybe she’ll get some grandchildren out of it,” said Basia.

“Let’s be practical,” Alex said. “Most women in bad marriages don’t leave.”

“Entrap-a-girl.com,” I said. “You could start a business.”

“I would pay for such a service!” Alex said.


“So, who are your sons dating?” I asked.

“David just went out with a doctor,” Basia said. “And Mark went out with a lawyer.”

“Are they going to see them again?”

“Why would such accomplished girls go out with our boys?” Alex asked. “They can do better!”

I rest my case.

* All names in this blog post have been fictionalized.


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Entry filed under: Bookpod, Emotions, Family, Friendship, Love, New York City, Religion. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

I go out walking Living the life of Reilly

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Will Runyon  |  July 12, 2010 at 6:09 AM

    Methinks this post is an allegory for the Obama administration’s redistributionist policies. How clever.

    • 2. modestine  |  July 12, 2010 at 10:03 AM

      Hi Will. I am beaming that I wrote an allegory about the Obama administration’s redistributionist policies. Please tell me how I did this so that I can do it again! — Barbara (Thanks for reading and commenting.)

  • 3. Urban Renaissance  |  July 12, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    Within the right-wing community, there is a large group of accomplished young women who want nothing more than to support a Torah scholar.

    Let me rephrase: Within the right-wing community, there is a large group of young women who want nothing more than to support a Torah scholar.Some become secretaries, many become occupational therapists, and some go to Touro for pre-med and become doctors.

    That’s not to say that this girl necessarily wants to marry a learner. There are many right-wing young women who want to marry another professional who learns on the side. But certainly, there’s a possibility that this girl is looking for someone exactly like Jeanette’s son. Good for Jeanette for looking out for her!

    And, who knows. The girl may convince Jeanette’s son to study computers on the side. (A great field! Immune to layoffs! Not pre-unemployment!) Or maybe he’ll become a Rebbe in a school and their kids will get discounted tuition.

    I see myself in a decade doing exactly what Jeanette is doing. Except for giving boring dates a second chance in Starbucks. I already did that in a previous pre-Starbucks life.

    • 4. modestine  |  July 12, 2010 at 10:25 AM

      Dear Urban Renaissance. I know you and I know Jeanette. You are no Jeanette. Consider yourself lucky and sane.

      As for the right-wing girls who consciously look for a “learner,” I believe that many cultural and psychological habits masquerade as religious conviction. Many of these male high school graduates who go to these yeshivot / kolels are simply lost souls. Many had behavioral problems at school. Some had learning disabilities. “Learning” in these places (note that nobody ever actually studies anything) is frequently a way of warehousing young men whom the parents and the Jewish community have given up on.

      As for getting these young men married off, what’s in it for the girls? It’s true, that they get a husband and children. But they also get to carry all the real-world burdens while their husbands sit and “learn.”

      Most people are not scholars. How is it possible that in our children’s generation, so many young men take on the scholar’s way of life? I know that when 18-year-old men go off to Israel for a year of Torah “learning,” the essential education they get is in how to stay up goofing off until three in the morning and how to drink booze in quantities that would kill a horse.

      The Moslem world has taken a careening turn to the right. Jews who warehouse their unworldly eighteen-year-old sons in yeshivot have simply jumped on a comparable extreme bandwagon. Okay, so these kids don’t grow up to fly airplanes into tall buildings, and, as Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing. Even so, the better place for our sons — and daughters — is in the wider world of education, law, medicine and finance — the very vocations that Jews in the twentieth century worked so hard to break into. The “real world” has a way of declawing extremism of every stripe. And then religion has half a chance of being what we want it to be: Humane.


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