Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Threshold

My last dating post made note of how guys are superficial. That's true to an extent, but not as bad as it seems. Let me explain.

I've spoken to numerous guys and a few girls about how important looks are in a relationship and this is my impression. Both care about looks. The difference is how much weight they put on it.

Guys have what I like to call a threshold. What that means is that every guy has a certain level of looks that he can become attracted to. Anything below that threshold of (subjective) looks is off the table. But anything above it is ok. So technically looks are the most important (because they must pass the threshold) and least important (because anything past the threshold is enough) part of the girl.

Girls (correct me if I'm wrong) seem to consider looks in the entire package, meaning it is just another factor. They might be willing to give up on some looks in exchange for personality, maturity, intelligence, etc. There doesn't seem to be a threshold.

The threshold theory applies to most guys, but not all. Some guys do have a very high threshold, which I guess is fine if that's all they can (honestly) be attracted to. But many guys are just simply immature and expect to be attracted immediately to the girl. This expectation is unrealistic, unfair, and foolish. The threshold should not be high enough that the girl must pass it on the first look. That's not a threshold, but living in a dream world.

Girls who complain that guys are superficial should know it's not really true. They care about looks but only to a degree. And the ones who care about looks to the point where they will not give her looks a chance to grow on them are not guys girls should want to date anyway.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Mixed Weddings, Social Norms, And Friends

Harry Maryles' post about mixed weddings is a must read. It's a summary of a speech by Rabbi Rakeffet about the false religiosity inherent in the separate seating scheme.

Put simply, I agree. Let's be serious: in the 21st century most of us mix with the opposite sex for much of the day and seeing them at weddings is not going to bring out thoughts that aren't already there the rest of the day. This argument, as noted in the post, is precisely the argument of the Levush.

But on a broader scale, how do the changes in society affect the whole halachic framework of the mixing of the sexes? The Shulchan Aruch (via Frumteens) says:

"A person must stay far, far away from the women, and it is prohibited to signal with your hand, to hint with your eyes, to any prohibited women. It is furthermore prohibited to laugh together with them and to be frivolous in her presence, or to watch her beauty. Even to smell her perfume is forbidden...."

The Gemara says it's forbidden to say hello to a married woman, even through her husband. There's also the big requirement for married women to cover their hair. Do all these halachos apply in the same force today, given how society has changed?

One point Rabbi Rakeffet makes in his speech is the societal aspect of tzniyus. The Rambam holds that a woman must wear a "radid" which is some form of veil. Today no woman in a western country would do that. Why? Because society no longer considers that modest; it considers it crazy.

So if how society views modesty changed halacha in that case, does it change it in the other cases above? When men and women don't interact, then those mild interactions could have some meaning. But today almost everyone spends time with members of the opposite sex. Maybe other people are different, but I feel nothing when I say hello to my married friends' wives. It's the same with my female friends. Maybe I'm unique (or dishonest) but I doubt it.

Moreover, the prohibitions overlook the positives of a male-female relationship. Having a friend of the opposite gender allows a person to learn how the other gender thinks, acts, feel, etc. This valuable information comes in handy during dating and marriage. Moreover, in the past marriages were less compassionate (by that I mean they were less about forming meaningful relationships and more about fulfilling duties), so this type of information was not as necessary.

So while in the past the calculus of cost vs. benefit might have tilted in favor of prohibiting male-female contact, perhaps today, given the changes in what these interactions mean and how important male-female friendships are, perhaps they should no longer be prohibited.

These aren't halachic arguments, but more arguments of policy. I haven't looked at the sources, so I can't really give a halachic argument. But halahca recognizes changes based on social mores in some cases. I'm just wondering how far it goes.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Shidduch Date

Sweet Rose long ago posted her thoughts on the shidduch date from a female perspective. I just found her blog, so my post will seem a little late. But better late than never I suppose....

I'll try to give the guy's perspective of a shidduch date. For those unfamiliar with the term, a shidduch date is basically a blind date, where an intermediary (shadchan) set the parties up. Let's start from the beginning, shall we?

First phone call: In my circle (not quite sure what circle that is anymore), the standard procedure is for the guy, after receiving the go-ahead and phone number from the shadchan, to call the girl. Of course this phone call is completely forced and awkward. Thank G-d I'm not a nervous person, and I've developed the ability to speak with a complete stranger about whatever happens to enter my mind at the time. But it's not so easy for everyone. I've had friends ask me what to talk about, what type of conversation to have, what not to ask, etc. Before my first, first phone call I made a list of topics of conversation, but never got around to them. It's dumb to make the call any more rigid than it already has to be.

This phone call is supposed to last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. If the two parties make an effort the call should last 30 minutes without a problem (I mean seriously, there's so much to talk about because they don't know the first thing about each other). It's not advisable to spend too much time talking, which is why an hour should be the cap. The parties haven't met, so why waste anymore time with a person you might reject once you see them?

Getting Ready: Ok, so girls have it much harder here. Guys have to shave (which is not fun) and shower, put on clean clothes, brush their teeth, and maybe polish their shoes. Some guys put on cologne or some fancy deodorant (Axe). No idea why people do that, but it's sure easier than makeup or hair straightening.

Picking the Girl Up: There are numerous ways to go about doing this, and it really depends on the rules in each community. I don't own a car, and my driving is not really up to dating standards (unless I want to see how she acts under severe distress) so I usually meet the girl. Generally the meeting place is the date location (a restaurant or hotel lounge or lobby) but sometimes I'll pick her up at her apartment or dorm. I'm lucky.

Some guys have to drive to the girls house and then meet her parents. That's always an awkward moment especially when either the father or suitor is not exactly a social butterfly. In these communities the girl is "fashionably late", which means he has to make chit-chat with her parents, which adds to the pressure of making a good impression.

And then the girl comes out.... Sweet Rose claims that guys look the girl up and down. I've never (intentionally) done that, but I'm sure many guys have. For many guys (yes, guys are superficial!) this is an important moment. Many a dates have been decided at this point.

The Date: The date is just as bad or good for the guy as the girl. Both have to talk, fill in awkward gaps in the conversation, not make a mess of themselves while eating, etc. I personally enjoyed most of my dates, since I can talk for hours. Some guys feel a lot more pressure.

Some guys also make quicker decisions. They know really quickly that the girl isn't for them. In that case, they usually try to wrap the date up quickly. That's rude. Even when I know the girl isn't for me, I still keep the date at the normal length, which is between two and a half and three hours.

Ending the Date: A great moment. The guy is always required to end the date. He has to say something like, "it's getting late" or "look at the time!" Always a fun moment, but not worse than the drop-off. When the guy drops the girl off (whether at home, dorm, or subway), he can't ask her our again. It's a gross breach of the dating rules. So the guy can only tell her he had fun and good night. That's it. Makes it very awkward.

Go out again or not? The guy has to make the quicker decision because he's expected to make the call first. If he says yes, the girl is asked. If he says no, she's informed of his decision. So he can't just say "whatever she wants." This part is really annoying because I've had many dates where I wasn't sure whether I wanted to out again, but would have been perfectly happy if she said no.

Dating isn't fun for either gender.

Belief Post

I reread my belief post and I'm not sure if it's clear. If it makes sense, let me know. If it doesn't also let me know.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Belief and Presumptions

Godol Hador and DovBear are ripping into each other about their reasons for believing in Matan Torah. GH makes the experiential argument, while DB argues that he's wired to believe in it.

I agree with DB's point (although GH's argument makes sense too). DB's basic point, without all the Hume stuff, is that given his background and upbringing, he believe in Matan Torah. His upbringing created this belief, and he sees no reason to shake it.

In other words, he grants his childhood beliefs a presumption of correctness, which in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, requires him to retain that belief.

This argument also works well with belief in G-d. We believe in G-d because we always have. A thinking person's belief system survived to this point, so we presume it's correct. And since the evidence against G-d is less than compelling, we believe.

Certainly the evidence for G-d is nothing more than filling in the gaps. A believer will say that the world is miraculous and therefore could have only been created by G-d. The nonbeliever will give an alternative explanation. But the evidence does not point either way, because it can be read differently by different people.

The presumption breaks the tie in my mind. Like in a trial, where one party bears the burden of persuasion and all the evidence proffered is completely balanced, the jury must return a verdict in favor of the other party, where a presumption exists favoring one side, that side wins if the evidence against it is not compelling.

The presumption doesn't work for certain elements of Judaism. The world being less than 6000 years old is an example. All of the evidence seems to go against this belief. Of course, people can just read the evidence anyway they want (Gosse theory), but that just doesn't seem plausible. Common sense dictates against it. Yes, common sense is not a philosophical tool, but life is too short for philosophical proofs (does anyone seriously consider whether we live in a Matrix unless they make a living off of it?).

I understand that whether an argument is plausible is a question of discretion. Different people will find different arguments plausible. And that's fine. I find the argument that G-d created the world plausible. I don't find the argument that the world is 5676 years old plausible. But that's me.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Don't Worry, Girls Are Useful Too.... To Be Slaves

Over the past two weeks I've heard some interesting (some might term them "misogynistic") speeches. And strangely it's not only Lakewood where this stuff flies, but also the Upper West Side.

Last week I had the pleasure of spending Shabbos on the Upper West Side. My aunt's food is absolutely amazing, and she doesn't even read my blog, so I'm not just being nice. I davened Mincha at the Young Israel on 91st Street. Some guy, I think from Ner Yisroel, gave a speech where he spoke about how the Jewish people are slaves to G-d and that we shouldn't resent it because we need to subsume our identities and interests to G-d's will. OK, not exactly something too controversial. But it was his comparison of marriage to slavery that piqued my interest.

Apparently, he claimed, marriage is not a union between equals because men and women have different roles (odd that he would use the feminist understanding of equality). And the Gemara talks about how a man "captures" a woman, and how the act of marriage is similar to acquiring a slave woman. Even in the secular world, he argued, the woman gives up her identity and becomes part of the man's domain (apparently he's unaware that coveture went out of the window a hundred years ago). Just like we are supposed to give up our will to G-d, he implied, a woman is supposed to give up her will to her husband.

I'm still making fun of this speech when I tell it to people.

I spent this Shabbos in Lakewood. My cousin just had a baby girl (she's adorable) and my uncle's father-in-law gave a vort at the Kiddush. He started with a story from Rav Shach about a man who came to Rav Shach somewhat upset that he had a girl. Rav Shach told him a man once came to him extremely happy that he had a girl... and that was because it was his first child in ten years.

So I guess the moral of the story is that it's better to have a girl than to wait 10 years for a girl. What about a boy? Tzaruch Iyun....

Friday, February 10, 2006

Stop With The Nazis Already

I'm sure by now everyone has heard of Amona. Everyone knows that a lot of violence broke out and whole bunch of people ended up in the hospital. So whose fault was it? I don't know, and while I usually trust the law enforcers over the law breakers, it seems that both sides went over the line.

But that's not the point. Two posts (here and here) I've seen recently comparing the Israeli policemen to the Nazis are really getting to me. One says this is the sickest thing he's seen since the Nazis. Apparently he needs to get out more. The other dubs them the "Israeli Gestapo" (but only the pre-1942 Gestapo). That makes me feel a whole lot better.

A few weeks ago I went to the Museum of the Jewish Heritage in Battery Park in The City (not a good date idea btw). I've been to a whole bunch of Holocaust museums in my life and have watched a whole bunch of movies, documentaries, and the like. But every time I see the pictures, watch the movies, or read the literature, I can't help but to feel this sickening feeling about man could be so completely brutal to his fellow man. How a modern civilization could use its superior knowledge to wipe out a whole group of people who they felt were inferior. The Nazi genocide is the worst act of human violence in history not just because of the scope of the horror, but also because of the intent behind it: to destroy a whole race of people.

We need to put things into perspective. Let's assume the settlers were right and the police came into Amona unprovoked and looking for blood. Let's say they beat completely defenseless people for no reason. Let's assume they did it happily, with glee.

How do we get from that to death camps? To forced marches through snow, rain, or blistering heat? To cattlecars? To forcing people to dig their own graves? To shooting babies for target practice?

I hear these comparisons from people all the time. The Palestinians have been using it for decades. But it hurts much more coming from people whose grandparents survived the Holocaust. I'd venture to guess most of the people making these obscene comparisons have grandparents who were affected in some way by the Holocaust. How would they think of their grandchildren trivializing their suffering?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Why Is There A Shidduch Crisis?

I have no idea why I haven't been blogging. Part of it is less free time (thanks to dating, although I'm not sure I'm still "dating" at this point, after meeting her parents and all), but also just less interesting stuff on my mind. But I've had a few conversations about shidduchim recently, so here are my thoughts:

Let's assume there is a shidduch crisis, by which I mean perfectly normal girls (or guys) are having a difficult time getting married. Why? Here are the reasons I've heard. Feel free to add a few:

1) There are less guys than girls. It all comes down to supply and demand. I know girls who got offended by framing the issue this way, but I don't see any way around it. If there are two girls for every guy (I doubt there is) and guys know it, then guys can be picky. Then only the "better" girls get taken and the rest have a difficult time marrying. In the absence of polygamy, we'd have a very difficult time getting these girls married.

Why the imbalance? It's not like Orthodox guys fight wars. And we don't purposely abort boys like what goes on in China (except that's girls). So it makes no sense that there's a huge imbalance.

a) Some people argue that the imbalance stems from girls entering the market earlier. If guys start dating at 23 and girls at 20, assuming there's an equal number of both sexes, there would be three extra years of girls on the market. Put in numbers, let's assume there are 50 guys and girls entering the market every year. That would put 150 extra girls on the market, creating the imbalance.

A friend challenged this argument (if I understood her correctly). She contended that despite the extra years, there should still be no problems. The extra girls on the market are not really extra, because there are less older girls, say from 24-27, than guys at that age. In other words a 26 year old guy will have a range of girls from 20-26. While the bottom of the range will have a high number of girls, there will be less girls from 24-26 than guys. And while there will still be an imbalance because there are basically no guys on the market from 20-23, the 24-26 year old girls can marry guys who are 27+. So basically the numbers equal out.

I'm not sure I'm totally sold on this argument, but it seems plausible and I suck at math, so let me know if it makes sense.

b) This friend argued that the imbalance is solely a result of guys getting approached first. Guys get a lot more offers simply because they get the offers first and have the option of waiting. A girl who receives an offer has no choice but to respond within a reasonable amount of time. She cannot just wait to see if anything better comes up.

So there really is no shidduch crisis because it's all illusory. Guys might think there are many more fish in the sea, but in reality the numbers are fairly even. Personally I think that would make guys picky, because of all the offers they get, but if I recall correctly she disagreed with that point.

c) There are more "good girls" than guys. Check out Josh's post on this issue. He explains it really well.

Is there really a shidduch crisis? I believe there is. I've spoken to too many girls who complained that their friends are really really nice, good, pretty people, but can't get married. I'm going to spend Shabbos in the Upper West Side, the bastion of singles hoping to marry.

Can we do something about it? I don't know. That's the million dollar question.