Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Verbal No-No's: a Guide to Talking With Singles

Consideration for others ought to be something that we worry about. What we say, no matter how innocently, may irritate and/or wound someone else. Singles seem to be particularly "singled out" for utterances that they find upsetting. A little PC when we talk to singles is necessary.

Herewith 12 things you should never say to singles.

1. "How are you?" Unless the tone is utterly neutral, this could be interpreted to mean that there is something wrong with the person and how are they bearing up. And what could possibly be wrong other than their being single?

2. "What's new?" Since what's old includes their being single, what's new could be interpreted to mean "have you found someone yet?"

3. "I tried to reach you last night but no one answered." This will be regarded as a fishing expedition--if you weren't home were you out on a date?

4. "Read any good books lately?" This just might be interpreted as meaning "since you have nothing or no one else to occupy your time with you must at least be reading a lot."

5. "How's work going?" Since work is singled out it might indicate that work is all the person being addressed has to occupy them, thus pointing out their single state.

6. "New hairstyle?" or "New outfit?" or "New suit?" Any of these may be interpreted to mean that improvement was needed and maybe now things will start cooking with shidduchim. Alternatively they may signal that the speaker believes that something is already cooking, hence the newness, and it's a fishing expedition to find out just what.

7. "Yuck. You mean you really like broccoli/spinach/squash?" This may be interpreted to mean that here is yet one more thing that makes you "yotzai min ha'klal" and just may be causing your single state.

8. When uttered by someone who is married: "Hi. You caught me at a really bad time. I'll have to call you back later." This may be interpreted as "I'm married and you're not and so you don't know any better then to call when I clearly will be busy being married."

9. "Im Yirtzah Hashem ba dir." This may be interpreted as "Only God is going to be able to find you a shidduch as you clearly can't manage it on your own."

10. "What kind of boy/girl are you looking for?" This may be interpreted as "Maybe if you verbalize what you are looking for aloud you might see just how ridiculous what you are looking for sounds."

11. "I know of this really great shadchan." First of all, singles may look at "great" and "shadchan" put together and refuse to believe that they are not oxymorons. Second, they may interpret this as "You obviously have not been dealing with great shadchanim or you would be married so let me help you since you are not helping yourself."

12. "My sister/brother just got engaged!" This may be interpreted as a contemporary version of children's "Na na na kish kish" or it might be interpreted as "Oh great, yet another boy/girl taken out of circulation."

There are many other things that should not be spoken of to singles. In fact, most conversation irritates many singles, unless it is conversation with other singles. If I'm reading some of the shidduch blogs correctly, singles would just rather that we never talk about them and certainly never talk to them. Yup, that's going to up the marriage rate considerably.


G said...

Nicely done!

You are of course assuming that people are/should be looking for answers/solutions/the positive, saddly this is not so.

Jake said...

Yes indeedy not a very complimentary picture of singles that comes out of this post. I'd say you were wrong except that I've been there, done that and know lots of other singles who have been there and done that too. Is complaining something else we're not allowed to do because it is bad for shidduchim?

tuvi said...

Feeling feisty today? Going to be some singles who are not happy with this posting. Not something that I don't hear my single friends say a lot of the time though. Sort of an all roads lead to shidduchim attitude on some of their parts. My wife commented to me that us young marrieds can't win. If we don't talk shidduchim with our single friends then the friends get angry that no one is thinking of them. If we do talk shidduchim then our friends get angry that all that gets talked about is shidduchim.

anonymously said...

Tuvi, it's not just the younger married couples who this happens to. If my parents ask my daughter about shidduchim she gets annoyed that everybody is talking about her business. If my parents don't ask her how shidduchim are going she gets annoyed because they don't care enough about her. Parents and grandparents also can't win.

mother in israel said...

Better watch out--I hope those singles don't figure out who you are!

profk_offspring said...

As a single, I found this amusing...probably because my mother knows that I find the idea that any single would consider the questions irritating ludicrous. And yet I know singles to whom the post would apply. Go figure.

Rachel said...

Anyone notice any irony in this posting? Singles are sick of being talked about all the time and of reading about how bad the singles situation is, and along comes another posting discussing singles. If we all got married tomorrow what would you all have to talk and write about?

Bas~Melech said...

LOL. I don't get touchy like that, but I think this post is a very fitting response to all the pity-seeking articles and letters to the editors about how insensitive people are.

Now, I try as hard as possible to be sensitive to other people's plights, but one thing that really annoys me are people who try to victimize themselves. I think we could adapt this post to respond to all the articles and letters about what not to say to someone who's childless, has a kid off the derech, has a single sister, is/was ill, has a relative who is/was ill, etc. Or maybe we should just zip our lips for good.

d said...

You make some good points, however, we are supposed to be sensitive to people in pain who lash out, even if they are not logical, though it can surely be difficult. I know that it is easy to preach, but can be hard to practice.

Cf. Bereishis 30:1-2 and Midrash Rabbah there, that Yaakov was held accountable because of how he answered Rochel when she spoke out in pain of being childless (brought in Ramban there).

Josh M. said...

I was convinced that the post was a joke until I got to #10.

I suppose that if there really are singles that view everything said to them as a double entendre related to their lack of a spouse, it doesn't hurt to be machmir on ona'as devarim, but as a single, only #10 really bothers me (and that because it's a meaningless question, rather than being personally offensive). #9 is a bit trite, but a bracha is a bracha.

Allen said...

There is a fundamental Talmudic statement regarding the obligation of reproof. The Talmud says that “Just as there is a commandment to say something (reproof) that will be listened to, there is a commandment to refrain from saying something that will be ignored.” In this statement the Talmud is not just outlining the obligation of reproof, but defining it. Reproof given in a situation where there will be no positive resulting outcome is not considered reproof. Reproof must elevate, motivate and galvanize into action. In a situation where there is no foreseeable positive outcome, the lack of an obligation to reprove stems from the inability to actually reprove properly.

There is basically one factor that determines whether the reproof will have a positive outcome. When it is obvious to the receiver that the intentions of the giver are noble and the objective is to help, then it is feasible that the harsh words will be taken to heart. In such circumstances, the giver was genuinely distressed by the self-destructive behavior that he witnessed, and sincerely desires that the negative actions will not be repeated.

I think it is fairly obvious from what profK has been writing about in previous postings that she doesn't have any ignoble ends in mind when she offers reproof. I think we can credit her in being truly concerned about the state of singles and the situations they find themselves in. That being the case, why not take this posting as an attempt to point out that it is not only the people around singles who need to watch their behavior but the singles themselves who also need to do so?

the apple said...

No offense, and while this post is humorous and sad at the same time, I am just so tired of reading all these posts that assume that the be-all and end-all of a person's life is to get married. You assume that EVERY single person (or every SINGLE person) is always thinking about why they aren't married and how to fix that. Guess what - some people have other things on the brain too.

Sorry. I'm just getting a little tired of the constant propagating of the attitudes that the only thing that matters is to get married and it'll solve all your problems.

ProfK said...

the apple,
I am so not a person who believes "get married and it'll solve all your problems." If anything, I am usually getting into hot water for suggesting that our frum kids are getting married too young, before they have any preparation for the problems that marriage will bring. Never have I suggested marriage as a panacea for the problems of being single. I have too many married years under my belt to ever be that disingenuous.

Re: " You assume that EVERY single person (or every SINGLE person) is always thinking about why they aren't married and how to fix that." I make no such assumption, nor did this particular posting. No, the posting did not carry a disclaimer stating "only those singles who like pity parties and who believe themselves to be victims should be reading this." It wasn't necessary. Those who recognized themselves in the posting, however tongue in cheek that it was, got the point. Those who didn't see themselves in the posting were free to shrug and say: "She must have been talking about those OTHER singles."

I've spent some time reading the blogs that are centered around shidduchim. I, too, get tired--tired of always being portrayed as the bad guy. I don't do turning the other cheek very well; if you slap at me, I'll retaliate. Let me use your own words to answer you: "Guess what - some people have other things on the brain too." This blog is not exclusively dedicated to talking about shidduchim, although it has on occasion. And that is because I, too, have "other things on the brain."