2008 Don't Compliment Your Date
Chananya Weissman
Sept. 12, 2008, The Jewish Star

I choose my topics carefully. After all, there is so much obvious madness out there that there is no need to present an exhaustive catalog or breathlessly note every example of madness that one encounters. We can leave it to those who are far behind the curve to point out that which we've seen, known, and dealt with for years and act all shocked about it as if it just happened for the first time.

I write this preamble to explain why I'm addressing something from an article in another publication, when pieces on shidduchim are published on a nearly weekly basis in various publications that would make any rational person wonder if he's living in an episode of the Twilight Zone. I have neither the time nor interest to expose and critique everything someone writes on the topic that would not have seen the light of day in any other generation of Jewish history, let alone be taken seriously and even considered intelligent.

I prefer to take note of the best of the worst, the items that highlight how low our generation has sunk by mere virtue of the fact that they can be published in a newspaper and their authors considered normal, intelligent people.

An anonymous writer sent in a letter to a column that is edited by two anonymous singles (since singles who can have opinions traced back to them are not marriageable). The writer is a kollel boy in his mid-twenties (someone who would otherwise be a man) who related his third date with a young “Bais Yaacov type”. The date with the girl began with a date with her parents in their home. At some point the girl descended the stairs, as the script in this play calls for, and paused midway while the conversation continued.

The boy related that he saw her there and noticed that she looked very pretty. He snuck glances at her when he didn't think she was looking. (No explanation for how it took him three dates to discover that the person he was going out with was attractive.) When they were finally released from the home, he told her that she looked “nice”. She blushed and they went on their way to that most romantic of settings, a lounge.

During the date the girl got very quiet and things became “awkward” for about 15 minutes. The boy decided to curtail the date, with the excuse that he needed to get an early start the following morning. He saw fit to note that the girl finished her drink and recited boreh nefashos. She became more talkative during the ride back, and the date concluded with our adult male of 25 or so years saying that he guessed the shadchan would be in touch.

True enough, there was a problem. The girl was in touch with the shadchan immediately (as opposed to sitting on things for a bit, as the script usually calls for, lest one appear desperate, hasty, independent, interested, or, God forbid, partially normal). The girl was severely offended that the boy had complimented her on her looks. She had thought he was different, but now saw that he was really “just a guy”. (To the boy's credit, he made no promise to support his future wife, since then he would REALLY be a bum.) She did not think she could continue to see him after seeing the “real” him, someone who makes flattering “personal comments” about the girls he dates.

The boy was very distressed by this turn of events, particularly because two shadchanim had advised him that it is appropriate to tell a girl she looks nice; after all, girls put in a lot of effort to look nice on dates, and it's appropriate to show that you notice and appreciate it. The boy was only following the advice of the shadchanim, and now he was in big trouble.

The response was predictably parve. What would it take for a shidduch pundit to scream at foolish letter-writers “What in the world is wrong with all you people?” Is there any limit to the absurdities that will be dignified and seriously discussed as though it is perfectly normal for adults to act like incompetent children? What will it take for the “experts” out there to come up with more thoughtful suggestions for our infants in adult bodies than to consult more with shadchanim, more with a rav, and have more bitachon? (“Grow up” is a pithy bit of advice that would often be appropriate, as is “Think for yourself once in a while”.)

One thing is certain. If they were on a third date and there was no thought of engagement, then something was clearly amiss.

Rabbi Chananya Weissman feels it necessary to note that he employed sarcasm in the above article and does not endorse this method of dating as rational or healthy. Better suggestions are available at www.endthemadness.org , and he may be contacted at admin@endthemadness.org.