Saturday, January 30, 2010

On Dating and Hashkafic High Standards

"Sydney, the man is the leader of the free world. He's brilliant, funny, handsome. He's an above-average dancer. Isn't it possible our standards are just a tad high?"

I have a relatively firm two-date rule because I don't believe you can get to know anyone to any degree of accuracy after just one date. I broke it this week for a guy who said he almost never makes it to shacharit and doesn't view it as an obligation to do so. To me, that indicated a lack of concern with halacha, which I found disturbing. (Had he indicated he doesn't always get to shacharit, but it's something he's really working on, I may have felt differently. It was the brazen lack of concern for halacha that made it a so obvious no.)

I worry that my standards are, well, a tad high. I don't believe in having lists of very specific requirements for guys I date (and I think, in fact, that one of the worst failings of the shidduch system is that it allows these lists and so discourages people from meeting one another and deciding after that what is negotiable and what is not), and I like to think I'm pretty flexible on everything besides hashkafa. I can figure out if personalities click or if I find someone attractive or if we have similar interests or whatever without a list.

And I am willing to recognize that we make life changes and sacrifices and compromises for the people we love and care about, so there's very little I am willing to say that I need in a guy. Relationships are unpredictable—I have watched enough of my friends marry guys that were so far from what they thought they were looking for to know that. I mean, dating is for figuring these things out, right?

But I do specify what I am looking for haskafically. (Also that I need someone smart because, well, I cannot even fathom marrying someone who is not smart.) I do this because my religious practice is important to me, and I've spent a long time and a lot of effort figuring out where I stand religiously, and that's important to me. But lately, I've been wondering if even then I am being too picky. Because I stand on lonely hashkafic ground.

Am I asking too much when I say I want someone who is both committed to halacha and also engaged in the secular world, someone who will respect my professional ambitions and realize that an Orthodox woman can be more than a mother and homemaker (not that there's anything wrong with that if that's what a woman wants to do, but it is not what I want) but also someone who recognizes that the lack of any sort of formal role for women within Judaism is frustrating if somewhat inevitable? I daven twice a day and learn multiple times a week; am I crazy for wanting a guy who davens with a minyan three times a day and who is koveah itim? Or even recognizes these things as goals.

Then again, as a friend asked recently, what difference does it make to me if my husband doesn't stand exactly where I stand? How will it affect me and my daily existence? And a teacher whom I respect once told me that the question I should ask when dating is whether we would want to send our kids to the same school. Another friend constantly maintains that personality compatibility is far more important than the nitty gritties of hashkafa.

All these people are right to some extent, but, still I want to marry someone whose values I share, who wants to lead the same sort of life I want to lead, who agrees with me on the role Torah should play in our lives. And I don't think that's unreasonable, though it may be more than a little impractical.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Newsday's Pay Wall = Epic Fail

Growing up, my parents' newspaper of choice was Newsday, which means I have read a lot of Newsday in my time. I make no comment about my parents' choice, though I will say that if I lived in the New York metro area, within the coverage area of the Paper of Record, I probably wouldn't be reading Newsday, but whatever. (Also, I never realized that Maggie in Growing Pains had been a Newsday reporter, but then again, I never realized that the Seaver family lived on Long Island—which was where I lived—so apparently I wasn't the brightest child.)

Anyhow, Newsday, like all the rest of the newspapers out there, is foundering (yes, foundering, not floundering, but I'll spare you the vocabulary lesson). So, it took the leap and instituted a pay wall. It's not like other newspapers haven't been thinking it. Except here's the thing: Three months later, Newsday has ... 35 online subscribers. That's right. 35.

That's no good, but here's what's shocking: The publisher, in a quote that has since been removed from the Observer post, said "that the web was not intended to be a revenue generator, but rather to provide extra benefit to loyal subscribers."

Who wants to take bets on how long Newsday lasts?

Monday, January 25, 2010

And Your Swollen Belly Will Take the Place of a 4.0


One person comforting another person who was nervous about her grades preventing her from getting into grad school: "Don't worry. You could be pregnant by then."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The NYT Wants You to Eat Organic Turkey

Part 2 in my "What was the New York Times thinking?" series.

Apparently, recipes are legitimate places for the Times to insert its own opinions and convictions. In a recipe for turkey burgers: "1 ¼ pounds lean ground turkey breast, preferably organic, from humanely raised turkeys."The vegetables, interestingly, have no organic qualifier, and another article in the same section that calls for eggs does not specify free range.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dear NYT, Seriously?

You can judge the merits of this article about a laundromat for yourself.

I will just leave you with this quote: "Laundromats have always been recession-resistant, clothes getting dirty independent of stock indexes."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In Which Orthodox Jews Are Called 'Culturally Deficient'

Yesterday, in a class discussion about cultural norms and nonverbal communication, handshaking came up as a topic of conversation. The professor asked what sorts of people are not expected to shake hands. One of my classmates answered children. The professor agreed. Another answered Orthodox Jews. The professor again agreed, responding, "Right—the culturally deficient." He repeated that phrase referring to Orthodox Jews a few more times regarding the same point and then moved on.

The culturally deficient?

I was taken aback. I have long thought of my academic pursuits as contradictions to my religion. Not because I think that Judaism prohibits secular study but because the two are different forms of knowledge, predicated on different foundations. My academic path is certainly not the norm in the Orthodox world. And, in general, universities do not have reputation for being particularly religious places. Academics, at least the stereotype goes, tend to believe in knowledge or science or the intellect more than God.

But my internal sense of contradiction never really found any sense of validation in the real world. The two never actually conflicted for me. After Columbia Unbecoming and to this day, people ask me whether I felt discriminated against at Columbia, and the answer is a firm no. While I wouldn't call what happened in my class discrimination, it certainly made me uncomfortable.

That said, I do understand that much of what Orthodox Jews do is, well, weird. We shake palm branches and citrus fruits, we fast, we call turning on a light on Saturdays "work," we wear wigs when we're married, we don't eat animals unless they chew their cud and have split hooves, and yeah we try not to shake hands with members of the opposite gender. Weird? Absolutely. Culturally deficient, though?

Because of how weird some of our practices are, I have always been more than willing to field any questions related to religious practices. (Though the kosher wine one does get a little awkward.) And I do not expect anyone else to totally understand them. There is a leap of faith required in religious practices, and just because I believe doesn't mean I am looking to convince anyone else even as I explain what I do and why.

And I have never minded the incredulous looks that follow some of these explanations. Like I said, I understand them. But that is different than passing judgment on those practices. And it's certainly different than a professor passing judgment in front of an entire class.

And it doesn't make me feel really good about the fact that I need to miss this professor's class twice for Pesach.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Ploy to Encourage Visitors

Be a Jeopardy contestant; come visit me. You know you want to. If you love me, you'll take the test.

(Also, I am excited to go to a Jeopardy taping in a few weeks with a friend and fellow Jeopardy lover. I just hope it's more exciting than the Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader taping in which we were not allowed to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, or even move except to clap and in which no one except the fifth graders was even remotely intelligent.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

East to West

I am back on the West Coast, warmer and pedicured and back to lots of schoolwork and also missing my friends (funny how you miss them that much more acutely after you get to see them). Onto the start of a new semester. It's gonna be good. [This is me being positive.] Also, I will blog more than I did during vacation. Hope you didn't miss me too much while I was away.