Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Maaaa, we're bored!!!

Last summer I ran a series of posts on good reading material for children/teenagers. For those who may have missed them the first time around or who are now looking for such reading material, the links are below.










A Real Hat Trick

A student towards the end of the term asked if I could give him extra time and help with some basic English questions he had. I agreed and asked what subject matter was giving him problems. He answered that he was having some trouble with English idioms. Youch! The student is ESL (English as a Second Language) and idioms are a frequent stumbling block when learning a new language.

We met together and were progressing through the lesson just fine when the student said to me that there was one idiom that he thought had a misspelling in it. I had given him a list of idioms and he pointed out the idiom on the list. The idiom was "to pull a rabbit out of a hat." I asked him which word he thought had been misspelled. He said that it was "rabbit," and then said, "Everyone knows it should be "pull a rabbi out of a hat" because everyone knows rabbis wear hats.

Have you ever tried to hold in a convulsive laugh because you know the other person will not understand why you are laughing and might get insulted? I almost strangled on that laugh. Somehow I got through the rest of the lesson but that comment had me giggling the rest of the day. Yup, there are definitely times when pulling a rabbi out of a hat might do the trick. If you can have defrocked ministers then you surely can have de-hatted rabbis.

English can be a strange language all on its own...and then we attempt to use it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dinner is What I Eat at My Kitchen Table

If you are really looking for something that needs to be done away with, which would result in untold savings, monetary and otherwise, then look no further than the ubiquitous Dinner. Every school has one, every shul has one, every organization has one.

I decided this year to keep track of how many of these dinner invitations I personally would receive. Keep in mind that I no longer have children in yeshiva. From September to now my total number of dinner invitations was "only" 14. And those are the dinners to which invitations actually arrived at the house. Read any of the Jewish newspapers and you're bombarded with ads for many, many more dinners. The cheapest of the dinners would only have cost us $150 per couple. And that's not the total cost yet. There are the Dinner Journals. Sizes of ads have gone down as the price has gone up. The cheapest "greetings" ad, which would only list Mr. and Mrs. K, was $54. The most expensive? Sky is the limit.

It would seem that a whole lot of people are getting something out of these dinners, but it isn't the schools, shuls and organizations. The caterers are doing well. The printers are doing well. And yes, some silver and gift stores are doing well also. At one dinner I read how the guest of honor received an 18" high solid silver megillah case with the megillah included.

So let me ask you: are you thrilled and joyful when you get one of these dinner invitations? Do you run to put the date on your calendar and spend the time until the dinner impatiently waiting for it to arrive? Do you have a great time at these dinners? I won't speak for anyone else but my answers are no, no and no.

If the purpose of a dinner is to pay tribute to someone who has worked hard for the organization or who has donated a large sum of money then a far simpler gathering than a full-blown Dinner would be just as appropriate. What, you can only say "thanks for all you have done for us" at a five-course meal in a catering hall?! Nothing wrong with a melave malka held in a school cafeteria or gym with cake, fruit and soda as the menu. When I mentioned this in a conversation with a group of friends, one said that it would be self defeating to go the melava malka/simple refreshment route. Those who still give big donations, or what passes for big in today's economic climate, also seem to have big appetites for public kovod. Granted, it's not everyone who donates who does so to bask in the public limelight, but my friend is not wrong in a whole lot of cases.

At a time when so many people are having to tighten their belts and forgo a lot of things, eliminating most of these dinners would help to save some money on both sides. No, I cannot afford or just plain won't give you the $150 right now. But since about $100+ of that is going to pay for the affair itself, how about if I send you a check for $50, we don't have the dinner, and we both win?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

An Urgent Posting

Jameel has up an Urgent Posting regarding an alledged child abuser who fled Israel, first to Canada and then to Brazil, and a Dayan from Montreal who is raising funds for this escapee. He is urging action on everyone's part in protesting that the Dayan is using his position to circumvent established law while supporting someone whose actions, if proven in a court of law (and apparently the evidence is rock solid and damning), are so far beyond the pale that even labeling them inhuman does not say enough.

It does not take hours to send an email protesting the actions taken by this dayan. Such actions are not private to nor limited to one man in Montreal. They reflect on all of us. Klal is a world-wide group--we can't claim geographic distance and location as an excuse not to protest. This is the second time in two weeks that news has come out about a Rabbi recommending that an alledged felon escape to Brazil (the Bar Mitzvah celebration in jail in NYC celebrant also fled to Brazil). It is bad enough that one Chilul HaShem has already been committed. Will we stand by silently and let another and then another also be committed?

Kol Yisroel Areivim Zeh lozeh does not mean that we are to protect the evil men among us. Are our children not also worthy of our concern?

See also http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/973871.html for some background information.

Haveil Havalim #223

The newest edition of Haveil Havalim is up at http://simplyjews.blogspot.com/2009/06/haveil-havalim-223-hot-and-humid.html

If you're trying to stay cool and unsticky, plenty to keep you busy reading there.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

JIFSS--On Being Vanilla

Thanks to harryer-than-them-all for writing the following, thereby giving me something to base a posting on:
"Which is why one of the most useful tips I got when I started dating was the acronym JIFSS. Stands for Job, Israel, Family, School, and Summer. These are pretty much safe topics, that cover the basics of the other person, without getting too personal, and that are just plain info that is, well pure vanilla." "Born to Run" http://ayeshivishharry.blogspot.com/

Given the amount of checking that is de regeur today, and which Harry-er says his family does, virtually all the information about the JIFSS is already going to be known well before the date. Also given the restrictions prevalent in a lot of the frum communities as to where someone can go to school and what they are encouraged to major in, where they can go in Israel, what they can do for the summer and when, where and if they can work, this information can pretty much all be covered in 10 minutes talking fast, maybe 15 talking slow. So what are you supposed to do for the rest of the date?

Family? Check out a few of the online shidduch information sites and one thing will be clear on all of them: be careful of the information you give out about your family. All those sites warn about being too talkative about family. Certainly if there has ever been something amiss in the family or if there is something amiss in the family, that information should not be given out until it's clear that a shidduch is going to be made. And amiss covers a broad range. So what about your family are you going to talk about? How many siblings you have? Your date already knows. Where they go to school and camp? Your date already knows. Their names and ages? Your date already knows. Who they got married to? Your date already knows. I suppose you could discuss your mom's absolutely incredible dobos torte. Yup, that fills another two minutes of conversation.

In short, if JIFSS is supposed to cover you for the first few dates with neutral conversation, plain vanilla, then someone is going to spend a lot of time staring at their shoe tops and wishing themselves anywhere but where they are. Read the shidduch postings written by those dating now and "boredom" pops up all the time. I'll venture a guess that too much JIFSS-ing may be one of the factors causing that boredom.

Admittedly, back in my dating days we did spend some time covering the JIFSS topics, basically because we mostly didn't have any information about the peop0le we were dating before we went out. And if today you happen to be in the enviable position of not having received a biography of your intended date worthy of a CIA investigation, then by all means, you need to know the JIFSS info. It's been said, not always tongue in cheek, that I could probably stretch a story to last a lifetime. But fueling the first 3-4 dates with JIFSS? I couldn't do it. There are only so many ways to describe what an accounting student does or what a therapy major does or what an English major does. I once went out with someone from the family that owns Season brand foods. They were basically fish products back then. And for four hours I learned more about fish and fishing then I ever thought I would. You may read a little sarcasm into that if you'd like. 1/2 hour I think I could have managed. 4 hours left me reeling. JIFSS with a vengeance.

So what else what make a good topic for conversation? I don't suppose we could just be straightforward and ask the other person "So, what interests you to talk about?" Maybe she is crazy about pistachio and the boy isn't, and maybe he is crazy about cinnamon swirl and she isn't, but also maybe they both could discover that they both like cookies and cream. But if they fill up on too much vanilla, they may never get to the point of tasting anything else because they're full and say "I've had enough." Vanilla is not my favorite flavor. Oh, I'll eat a little if I'm stuck, but I'm definitely not going back for seconds.

So, thinking outside of the JIFSS box, what would make for some fun and stimulating conversation with that stranger sitting across from you?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Some Help For Thinking of the Future

You're young, healthy, and busy, and the future, the far future, is way, way down the road. Yup, I was just 21 yesterday--the future is closer than you think. Planning for that future requires starting now. There's a useful tool available online that can answer some questions about just what you might need in those far away years and what you need to do now to prepare for them. There is also an interesting feature on the site that allows you to compare the cost of living across two different cities--no more guessing and arguing about if OOT can be cheaper or not--look for yourself.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Olden Days of Shidduchim--Part #2

JS asked the following question in a comment on the "Shidduch Making Revisited" posting, as did bad4:

"Can you describe more about what shidduch making was like "back then" or refer to another post?" I partially covered this topic in http://conversationsinklal.blogspot.com/2009/04/then-and-now-holocaust-generation.html%20LetI also covered part of it in the first part of this posting. Let me expand.

The 60s and the 70s. The New York Metropolitan area. Opportunities for frum college students to meet with others of both sexes abounded. Major shuls and communities had regularly scheduled collegiate programs.

In Far Rockaway there was a Friday night oneg every week just for collegiates. It was sponsored by the two major shuls in the area then--The White Shul and Shaaray Tefila. There was always a speaker of some kind and then refreshments were served. The onegs were held in private homes. And yes, during refreshment time we all walked around and spoke to each other. One result was that whatever male/female shyness there was was soon dispelled. Males and females got comfortable in speaking with and to each other. They became friends to varying degrees. And as part of that friendship, we served as each other's fixer uppers when it came to dates. I don't remember a single shidduch coming about between two people who were in the group, but a whole lot of dates came about when we all fixed each other up. And some of those dates eventually lead to marriage for the two parties. And some of those dates lead to fix ups by the datees with yet other people which eventually lead to marriage.

The National Young Israel had a Collegiate division which regularly held social affairs all over the city and upstate as well. Yes, there was usually some kind of speaker or program, and sometimes not, but the ultimate purpose was to give us exposure to people from all over the city. And it worked. Collegiates met other collegiates and social networking was the result. Some of the YI communities also held Shabbosim just for college age kids. The purpose was for us to get us to know each other and to expand the number of our acquaintances.

NCSY had a large group of collegiates who served as counselors and leaders for its various functions around the country. It would frequently send 5, 10 and more of us to the various regional conventions. We all became friendly with each other. And yes, some of those leaders met and married each other. The aunt and uncle of a well-known blogger's wife were one of those couples. Bnai Akiva madrichim and madrichot also had this type of social network and provided social affairs for people to get together, as did Mizrachi HaTzair.

[Note about NCSY: through NCSY the OU held many types of functions for high school aged boys and girls, and they were mixed. Obviously the main focus was not getting 13 and 14 year olds married to each other. Nonetheless, we shouldn't discount the friendships that were made and connections that were made during the high school years that definitely were helpful during the college/getting married years. The same can be said about Bnai Akiva. ]

There are people my age in NYC who would rather commit hara kiri than admit the following, because it's not how they want to be thought of today. Tough! Back then there were two major hotels in the Catskills (and one not so major)--Grossingers and the Pioneer and then The Pineview--which held mega weekends on July 4, Shabbos Nachamu and sometimes on Labor Day. These weekends were just for those college age and above. Yup, males and females alone together for a weekend, away from home. Table seating was mixed and the people were shifted for each meal. There were all kinds of programs and plenty of opportunities to get to know others who were there--that was the whole purpose. And yes, lots of fix ups and lots of eventual marriages that came out of that networking.

Yeshiva University held regular chagigas both uptown at the YU campus and downtown at the Stern campus. Yup, they were mix and mingle affairs. [Note: some people even took their dates to the chagigas. A free date? Could there be anything better?!] There was no mechitza. And yes, meeting and eventual marriage was a common enough result. Certainly there was networking. Stern girls frequently went to the uptown YU campus to eat dinner, particularly if they had a relative there. The year I spent at Stern my first cousin was at YU. Once a week I would travel up to see him. Sometimes my roommate or another friend would come with me, sometimes not. And a few times we would eat together just the two of us, and more often than not a few of his friends would plop down and join us. I was hardly the only girl eating in the YU cafeteria. And no one came over and said "es past nisht," and no one forbade us to go.

A word about parties, yes parties. People had them for various and sundry reasons [a melave malka, Chanukah party, Purim party and an I-feel-like-seeing-everyone party, for example]. So did frum organizations. And most were mixed sexes. Why not? They were a real chance to meet others and have a good time in the process. (Note: talking to each other was considered having a good time.) I remember a melave malka I held in my parents' home with the intention of introducing my Brooklyn friends to my Far Rockaway friends. We had a baby grand piano in our living room and the highlight of that evening was when the composer of "Shmelkie's Niggun" played us that new song before it had been released on record. They were a really inexpensive date too. Yes, a date. The aura of secrecy that exists today was little seen back then. No one had you walking down the aisle just because you were seen in public with someone of the opposite sex. The pressure was far less. Note: When was a party not a party? When it was called a kumzitz (literally come and sit together). A kumzitz could be held in a private home or in a public venue. Music and conversation were the main draw.

And weddings. Now there was a networking/social occasion. Even some frummie weddings back then did not have a mechitza, just separate circles for dancing. Lots easier to look and be looked at. And where there was mixed seating (which was far more common then than now), the choson and kallah placed their single friends at the same table. And singles drifted out to the lobby between courses and between dances to see and be seen and to talk.

Now someone out there is sniffing and going "MO." [And have I mentioned that I realllly, reallly hate that term MO? As opposed to what? Ancient Orthodox?] Yes and no. The division back then was far less formalized than it is now. It's our recent generation that has gone label crazy. Clearly the chassidim were not part of this scene. But a whole lot of those who we characterize as yeshivish today were. Why not? Hordes of Esther Schoenfeld girls and BY girls were mostly in Brooklyn College or maybe Hunter College. So were Torah VoDaas boys and a fair sprinkling of Chaim Berlin boys. Either you were attending during the day or for some of the boys they were going to college 4 nights a week--that's right, 4 nights a week. I believe that the Mir limited their students to only 2 nights, but a lot of those Mir boys went 4 nights anyway. A lot of people were in Brooklyn College. They were also in Queens College, Hunter and City Uptown. They were in Pace and Baruch and NYU and Columbia and every other college with a presence in the city. They were sitting in classes with each other, sometimes sharing notes, sometimes exchanging phone numbers, and they certainly were present in the cafeterias.

Perhaps someone among my readers will remember the CUNY Houseplans. I suppose you could consider them as the poor man's fraternities and sororities. And some of those Houseplans were started and peopled by frum collegiates. And their purpose, for the most part, was so collegiates could meet and become friends with other collegiates, male and female. There were hundreds upon hundreds of shidduchim that came about through the social networking and meeting and greeting that took place at CUNY campuses.

And the carpools to school. While I generally had my classes during the day, one term I had to take a course that was only given in the evening. I carpooled from Far Rockaway with some of the boys who were in college at night. Yup, me and 3-4 boys. I laugh now when I think of who those boys were then: all are pretty much household names today. And one of them married my friend's younger sister eventually. The shidduch was pretty much "I have a girl you should meet." He did eventually, and the rest is history. And I'd stake everything I own on the fact that none of his kids have ever been told the real story of how he met his wife. He'd first have to explain that he was carpooling with his "shadchan."

And re those yeshivishe kids, I can think of 5 mainstays today of some of those oh-so-to-the-right yeshivas who are never going to tell the story of how mommy met daddy, because those stories would have to start out with "I was in the cafeteria at Brooklyn College when my friend pointed out this girl/boy..." or maybe "I was taking a class with this girl/boy...." Or maybe "My best friend was marrying his best friend and we met when we were planning sheva brochos together."

Singles in the olden days had a chance to meet other singles everywhere, both in an organized fashion and informally. Singles were not looked at as separate from the rest of the olam. They came and went just as if they were "regular people." No one looked at them as problems in need of solving.

So where did we meet/see each other? Every where and any where. And sometimes, when the time was right, you had your Rodgers and Hammerstein moment:

Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger,

you may see a stranger across a crowded room

And somehow you know, you know even then,

that somewhere you'll see him/her again and again

Yes, families very much wanted their children to get married. Heck, most of us also wanted to get married. But we were a part of the process, the most important part of the process. In the end, no matter how a date came into being, it was up to US, the datees, to make the decisions. In the final analysis, only two people went out on a date in the olden days, and only two people had to make decisions. You might consult your friends or your parents, but ultimately you were left to make the final decision on your own, as it should be. Except today, a whole lot of people have the twisted idea that you can't leave dating and marriage to the datees--they're too immature, too inexperienced. Then what in blazes are they doing looking to get married for?!!!

Note: for a slightly different way that one young lady met her husband, see http://conversationsinklal.blogspot.com/2007/11/when-shadchan-is-inhuman.html

NOTE: bad4shidduchim has a post up now asking for people to tell how their parents grandparents met. You might want to take a visit and respond http://badforshidduchim.wordpress.com/

Monday, June 22, 2009

Going by the Book

Sometimes I read a line somewhere and it resonates and won't let me go until I respond to it. That happened just now, and it doesn't hurt that it illustrates so clearly one of the major differences between the olden days and now as regards shidduchim.

Bad4Shidduchim, in responding to a question that a mother asked about her as regards a possible shidduch, in reference to what she does for spirituality, answered: "Isn’t that like a fourth date kind of question?"

Bingo! I am willing to bet a huge sum of money that anyone of my age reading that answer is going to be incredulous. There are kinds of questions that should only be asked on a fourth date? Expanding that, there must, then, be kinds of questions that can only/should be asked on a first date, a second date, a fifth date, a sixth date etc. So there's a script to be followed when going on a date? What happens if you forget your lines? Ad libbing is verboten? So those on a date are only actors playing a role, a role written by someone else? Do datees carry copies of the script with them, just in case they need to consult it? And what happens if a question comes up that is not in the script? Does it get tabled until the datee can consult the script writer?

Back when I was dating conversation was what I created along with whomever I was out with. It was definitely a work in progress, one that we were writing for ourselves. I really, really would have liked to have seen my mom's face if I had called her from a phone in the ladies room and asked her what to do, since my date had brought up a fifth date question on the third date.

Talk about putting words into someone's mouth.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

My husband works for a company whose employees are about 99% frum, in all varying degrees, but mostly to the right. One of these employees sold her home in Boro Park and is moving to Flatbush, because it has to be more normal than Boro Park is right now. Why? Her husband was coming out of the house and a little boy, about knee high, accosted him. The tyke said, "I know that you are a goy." The husband was a bit taken aback but asked "How?" The tyke answered: "Because you aren't wearing a streimel."

This is the same Boro Park in which the Young Israel on 50th off 13th was the "big" shul? This is the same Boro Park in which the Shulamis School for Girls was located? Ain't progress great?!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Olden Days of Shidduchim--Part #1

What made the olden days of shidduch making so different from now? For one thing, the attitude of the community. For another, the way that people of college age were looked at. For yet another, the modus operendi used in making a shidduch.

Let me be clear: there have always been paid shadchanim around. But the New York of the 50s, 60s and 70s had far fewer of them than the Europe of the time that preceded them. And those organized shidduch groups and shidduch circles that have sprouted up in every community, as well as online? There weren't any. Why? There was no need for them.

Those who were chassidish used such shadchanim, although not exclusively. And a few others of what we might call yeshivish leaning sometimes used them. If a couple did not meet on their own, then it was most likely that someone who knew the single or the family or of the family did the fixing up. Neighbors, friends of the family, members of the same shul, family members--all were called into shadchanus duty. Parents who had children old enough to get married only had to let the "grapevine" know and names would be suggested.

But let's focus on that word "suggested." Beyond giving the initial information, these people rarely played a part in what happened next. They weren't playing go-between for the boy and the girl. They gave the boy a phone number. He called the girl. They arranged a date. They went out. If there was going to be another date then HE would have to call HER and ask her out. And SHE would have to decide yes or no and deliver the news to HIM. If either party at the end of a date didn't want to continue further then that person had to say so, in person, to the other person. Uncomfortable sometimes? Yup, but that was part of being an adult and dating. Such was life. Only once do I remember having a friend, who had set me up, call me to tell me that the boy wasn't going to call again. And I believe her comment was on the order of "What a dufus! He couldn't just tell you himself?!"

Yes, blind dates were also common in the olden days. The were considered "blind" if 1)the two people going on the date had never seen each other or 2) no one doing the suggesting had actually laid eyes on either or both parties.

Checking on the family? Yeah, sort of, some times. If the person who suggested the match knew both sides and could give some basic information--like where in Europe did the family come from, what does the father do, where do they daven--it didn't go beyond that. And if the person didn't know both or either side, you were lucky if you got the correct name. For a few people, yichus was important and they would ask about this. What was not asked about and reported was what the great grandmother ate for breakfast and other questions of that ilk. And what was assumed was that if a frum person was setting you up and knew you were frum then the person they suggested would be frum also. And basically, "frum" was the only designation you were going to get. Investigating family before the two people had met? Why waste time.

Shidduch questionnaires to be filled out? Surely you jest. The vast majority of the things that singles are asked to put down on those questionnaires was considered conversation to have on a date. Daters maybe got some reallly basic information--age, height, what schools the boy and girl were in now, maybe what they were majoring in. And maybe this information was correct and maybe it wasn't.

Here's another difference. Shul was considered a good place to see and be seen. When davening was over mispallelim lingered for a few moments outside of shul and exchanged hellos. It was considered just fine for groups of singles to gather like this as well and say hello and introduce each other. After all, what could possibly happen untoward standing around in public? You had to see some of the looking and networking that went on at a shul's Simchas Bais Ha'Shoevah, Simchas Torah for hakofos etc.

And then there was this. Families got together with other families for meals on Shabbos or yom tov. And no one checked first to make sure that they weren't putting together unmarried boys and girls at the table. I have Vishnitzer sort of cousins (some of my family relationships get a bit convoluted) who lived in Boro Park when I first arrived to NY. I was invited to their home for a Shabbos. I slept in the house, sharing a room with one of the daughters. They had older daughters and older sons as well and we all were in the house together and sat at the table together. In fact, almost all of my family in Brooklyn was what we liked to call "shteible people" and I was invited to all their homes, and there we sat, males and females. After all, what could possibly happen untoward sitting with a whole group of people at a table?

When my parents moved to Far Rockaway, our home sometimes seemed like Grand Central Station on a shabbos. My father loved having company and many a Shabbos he came home with a stray guest or two. And no one asked if it was okay to invite single men where there was a single, eligible daughter. When R' Freifeld first opened his yeshiva in Far Rockaway he was a tenant of close friends of my parents. The landlord had three sons. One Shabbos I remember their inviting us to meet the Rav at lunch in their home. There we were, all sitting at the table, my parents, my brother and sister and me, the hosts and their three older sons, and the Rav and his wife and their children. (And just for the record, I had gone out once with one of the sons. We "weren't a match made in heaven" but that didn't preclude our never seeing each other again or fixing each other up.) No one yelled "ossur!" Not only that, but the Rav was thrilled when my dad volunteered us to host bochrim from the yeshiva for shabbos meals when needed. And yes, he knew I'd be there.

Here is something else you don't see today: group dates. (Not usually first dates however) Yes, sometimes two couples would go somewhere together, sometimes even three or four or more couples. Those dating wanted to see how their dating partners interacted with others. After all, couples were going to have a social life. It's ironic that a former student would tell me that when she was in Lakewood the rule was that young couples absolutely did not/could not invite each other over for Shabbos meals. And yet, these same couples were encouraged to invite single bochrim for these meals. "Social life" in mixed groups is apparently not expected or encouraged in some circles.

I should mention another huge way in which dating and shidduchim were different then. Certainly people hoped that a fix up would lead to a marriage. But no one assumed that it would. It would take the couple's going out to find out if there was something there that would lead to marriage. And for the most part, the datees were left in peace to do the discovering on their own. Everyone assumed that if you were old enough, you were dating. There wasn't the veil of secrecy that hangs over dating today. No one, seeing a couple in a local restaurant together, assumed that they were getting married. Unless there was a formal announcement, you were just dating. And it was the rare parents who began nudging their kids as to their intentions on some kind of artificial timetable.

Now a word about age. Yes, there were some girls who got married at 19. I look at all those Boro Park relatives and a lot of the girls did marry at 19 and 20. But almost without exception every one of their husbands was already making a parnoseh, even if also going to school, usually for graduate work. The only two exceptions I remember were marrying into wealthy families, families that were going to support the couple until the husband finished his graduate work (note the graduate work, not sitting and learning). Plenty of girls who got married first after graduating college or later. I got married at 24-1/2, and I was hardly stigmatized as an old maid.

Let me end with one of the reallllly big differences between then and now. College age people and up who were dating were considered to be adults. "Babies" getting married was the exception, not the rule. The expectation was that when a couple got married they were on their own: they would take care of all their expenses. And the correlation was that they would make all the big decisions that would come up, all on their own. If a boy was 23 or 24 it was expected that he was already working. One particular boy who I remember was having trouble getting dates. This was because, at 23, he still didn't know what he wanted to be "when he grew up." His parents would tell people "He's bright. He'll 'go into business' and he'll be all right." But people back then didn't want to hear about what you were going to do--they wanted to hear about what you were doing. The only exceptions were for boys who were in law school or dental school or medical school or finishing engineering programs. And even there, lots of those boys first got married when they finished their programs. Those who married earlier may have had wives who already were out and working or a few were from wealthy families who could afford to hold them out for the few years.

So where did we meet if we weren't meeting through blind dates? Stay tuned for Part Two.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ask and You May Be Surprised at What You Receive

It's no secret to my readers that telephone solicitation calls drive me nuts. I was brought up to be polite but so many of these callers just don't want to take no for an answer. I have found the absolutely perfect way to get them to leave us alone and not call 4,763 more times in the same week. The scenario goes as follows:

Caller: Hello Mrs. K. This is Sorah Jones and I'm calling from the ________school/organization. You were so kind as to give us ______ dollars last year {Caller has said all this without taking a breath. At this point a breath is becoming necessary and that's where I jump in.]

Me: Sorah! I'm so happy you called because you just saved me having to call you!!!! I'm collecting for the ________school here locally and I know that you as someone who is very involved in tzedaka giving would be very pleased to help us out with a large donation, because of course you know how important the _________school is and it needs the money from kindly people like you right now. So how much are you going to give us? {I apparently can hold my breath longer than Sorah or whoever she really is can.]

Caller: I..........

Me: [Jumping right in] Would $100 be okay with you, but more would be.....[sound of dial tone as phone is quickly hung up on Sorah's end.]

This has worked in every single case so far. Maybe if I use it often enough some people will take me off of their calling lists. I sure hope so.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Video Presentation on Israel That is Must-See Viewing

Ezzie has a video posted of a speech on Israel by Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey. All I can say is "Wow!" The speech is about 15 minutes in length but please view the whole speech. You'll be glad you did. It was gratifying to hear a speech by a US elected official that actually gets the history right.


Shidduchim Revisited

I hadn't written a posting about shidduchim in quite some time,and now suddenly three in the space of a few weeks. Apparently shidduchim have been hiding out in my mind and are now clamoring for attention. Today shidduchim came front and center.

Someone with whom I used to redt shidduchim in the past called me in a bit of a panic. One of her shidduchim was disintegrating and the two mothers were being impossible. Since I knew one of the mothers would I help her out and speak to the mother. In retrospect, I'd rather have faced a root canal then the conversation I had.

After 7 dates the young couple in question decided to call it quits. They had their reasons, although nothing disastrous. This just wasn't a shidduch. Neither mother was willing to leave it at that. How could a couple have gone out for seven times and first be discovering that this isn't a shidduch??!!! By now they should have been planning their l'chaim. Both moms were gunning for the shadchan; it had to be something she did or didn't do that she should have that was temporarily sidetracking the couple. That was where I first got puzzled. "You mean the shadchan was still involved on the seventh date?" I asked. And then I got the answer that reminded me of why I don't actively redt shidduchim anymore. The mom's voice was incredulous. "Of course the shadchan is still involved! You think that kids this young should just be left alone to have to make important decisions like this?! They need someone with experience guiding them. Es past nit that they should be the ones to ask the delicate questions or to put themselves into situations that could get awkward if they don't know what the right answer should be."

Perhaps the strangest part to me (yes, even stranger than the mom's answer) is that I knew this mom when we were both single, many moons ago. We were both at Queens College at the same time. I know for a fact, and so do a whole lot of others, that this mom met her husband when he came over to speak to someone he knew at a table in the cafeteria and she was sitting there. I know for a fact that they spent a whole lot more then the time of seven dates today talking in that cafeteria. I know for a fact that her parents didn't even meet her husband until after they had gone out three or four times from school. I know for a fact that her first formal date with her husband took place the second week of the Spring semester and that they first got engaged in June, and married after Sukkos.(I was one of her bridesmaids--we all knew these things.)

Now granted, times have changed just a bit, and lots of people have gone more to the right frumkeit-wise. But just where did a whole lot of parents store their brains while they were moving right? I asked this mom if she had discussed the situation with her own mom. She gave a frustrated groan. "She just doesn't understand how things work today!" Honestly? I'd had enough and was getting nowhere at the speed of light. "Oh, I think she understands okay. She let you decide on who you wanted/needed to marry and treated you like an adult. She didn't push you or prod you or make you spit back every word you and _____ said to each other. She wasn't living vicariously through your dating." And then I issued the challenge: "Since it doesn't seem to be working out the way you're going about shidduch making for your child this way, why not try it the way it used to be?"

I believe her last words to me were something about my being stuck in a time warp and living in a past that's over.

Bad4Shidduchim once made a comment here that she doesn't believe in the "good old days" and that they weren't all that good. Sorry Bad4, but of the two of us, only I was living then and still am living now. And on this you will just have to trust me: good and bad are relative terms. But any way you look at it, making a shidduch in the "olden" days was a lot more normal, a lot more sensible and a lot less agonizing then the case is today. A whole lot more of the shidduchim made back then are alive and well today than are the more recent marriages. And so yes, I'm sticking to my guns: shidduch making was a whole lot better in the good old days. This is one case where going backwards in time might actually take us forward.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ordering Klal's Problems

There's been a lot written on the blogs and spoken about in the "real" world about the problems facing Klal. Yup, we have some. But where there doesn't seem to be agreement is in how to order those problems, how to place them in priority order. Individuals who face a particular problem believe that problem to be the worst one that Klal faces; others might not agree. Some problems seem to be equally important to other problems. There is also this: solve certain problems and other of the problems we face become less of a problem or just might disappear altogether; they're inter-related.

I've come to the conclusion that what is needed right now more than meetings and conferences dealing with any one problem alone is a conference that will set out ALL the problems we face. A conference that will attempt to prioritize what absolutely must be addressed immediately and what needs to be thought of after those problems. A conference that would group similar problems together because the solution to one could bring about the solution to the others, or at least a partial solution. A conference that might indicate who or which group might best deal with a particular problem or set of problems. In short, what is needed is some organization so that multiple groups are not running around like chickens without their heads (or not running around at all).

I've been keeping a list of some of the problems mentioned on the blogs or that have come up in conversation with others. In no particular order I am listing some of the problems that Klal faces.

1. Alcohol abuse

2. Substance abuse

3. Spousal abuse

4. Child abuse

5. Sexual predators

6. Religious children going off the derech

7. Intermarriage

8. Large families with limited financial means

9. Large families with non-coping parents

10. High cost of housing in the Metropolitan NY area and other metropolitan areas

11. High costs of yeshiva education

12. Rising divorce rate among the religious

13. Increase of medium to severe shalom bayis issues among married couples

14. Insufficient services for special needs children within the yeshiva system

15. Insufficient services for special needs children within the observant communities

16. Lack of transparency on the part of yeshivas

17. Services for families where both parents work

18. Inadequate secular education such that working and getting jobs is difficult

19. Attitude that work is a second-class or lower activity

20. Reliance on governmental programs, some of which are being cut or eliminated

21. Lack of financial planning knowledge

22. Credit card debt

23. Multiple tzedaka organizations, with multiple overheads, all dealing with the same issue/place
24. Poor business models resulting in waste by many organizations/schools
25. Sparse elder care facilities with a large, greying generation coming up
26. Outright sinas chinam among different groups in Klal
27. Simcha "rules" that are budget breakers for many/most in Klal
28. Institutionalized "Keeping up with the Shwartzs"
29. Attitudes on the part of many towards higher education
30. High expense of kosher provisions
31. Adequate day care provision for working mothers
32. High cost of summer sleep away camps
33. High cost of year(s) in Israel post high school
34. Increasing number of singles who are not finding shidduchim
35. Vaads with special interest conflicts
36. Rise in visible (and clandestine) incidents of an illegal nature, particularly involving financial malfeasance
37. Antipathy towards retirement as a legitimate occurrence
38. Heightened sense of gashmius as regards consumer purchases
39. Rise of larger families which cannot be financially maintained by the parents alone
40. Unnecessary duplication of some services with other services not being provided at all
41. Sometimes highly charged division between the MO/Right
42. Inability of some schools (not a new problem) to meet their payrolls in a timely fashion or at all
43. Entitlement living not backed up by real dollars
44. Leadership of various organizations who compete rather than cooperate with others
45. Lack of common sense when certain practices are ordered as "must do."
46. Lack of financial planning, by individuals and by community organizations/structures, that takes into consideration future needs
47. Inability of some leaders in Klal to focus on the bigger picture, instead focusing on only their desires of the moment
48. Gaivoh of some individuals/organizations/structures in having self-elected as more worthy of consideration and above all others
49. Lack of both short term and long term nuanced planning based on sound principles
50. Overly rapid growth of some institutions/structures to the detriment of others
51. Insufficient social service programs because Klal refuses to admit that these problems exist, and in large numbers
52. Sparsity of caring about and programs for the single members of Klal, whether never married, divorced or widowed

That was just the short list--there are other problems that need solving as well. No one wants to see in black and white just how much there is to work on to get Klal in order--and that, too, is a problem.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Word About Public Schooling

Included among the choices for parents who can no longer afford yeshiva tuition is the idea of public schooling with an afternoon program of Jewish studies, either in a formal program or privately provided.

I'd like to say a word here about public school. I attended public school. My reason for doing so was not a matter of choice. The day school in Portland was not started until I was almost at the end of elementary school, and there was no yeshiva high school. I went to one of the top 10 ranked high schools in the country--purely accidental to why I went there--it was the local high school. I can't say I didn't get a great secular education, because I did. But education then and education now is a whole different kettle of fish. And then there is that school is not only about the education.

Parents of children allergic to some type of food talk and talk to their kids about not sharing food with friends, of not taking bites of things they are not 100% sure is okay. It sure can put a crimp into the social patterns of sharing, particularly for younger kids. Now change allergy to kashrus concerns. Put a child into public school and tell that child that they can't eat any snacks provided in the classroom, they can't eat at any classroom birthday parties, they can't eat the food from the lunchroom. Tell that child they can't swap snack with their fellow students. Good luck to you. Ask parents of those allergic children just how many emergencies they have a year when their children have forgotten all the warnings.

Then there is the social aspect. I did not spend any time in my fellow classmates homes. I saw them in school and that was it. Honestly? The younger school years and the high school years are about socialization, about doing things with friends, about finding a peer group. And when you are one of only zero to three frum kids in a school your socialization is difficult to say the least. Sure, the shul and the Jewish Community Center had some after school activities (at least these had some Jewish kids, even if not frum), and the few frum kids in Portland latched on to those, but that didn't truly make it any easier to be sitting around a classroom hearing about activities that you were not going to be a part of, that you hadn't been invited to. Don't discount how hard it is to spend 7 hours a day sitting next to people you are not supposed to become good friends with.

[Note: if you think the social aspect is not all that important, take it from me--it is. Important enough that my family applied to the state to have me graduate after three years with a full diploma so I could get out and head to Stern. I had to go to summer school after my third year of high school to take certain courses I needed, but I was the first person in Oregon to leave high school after three years with a diploma. In its ruling the Board of Ed recognized that "socialization issues" are indeed part of high school and that our petition had merit.]

And let's also be honest and state a truth about children and growing up. Children can be cruel. Those who are different somehow frequently come in for their share of ribbing, some of it not so good natured. When little Sarale walks into the public school with her long socks, her long skirt and her long sleeves do you really believe that the other children won't notice? And that they may not comment? When Moishele's tzitzis hang out over his pants you think no one will notice? When Sarale and Moishele wash for a motzi and bentch after lunch, you don't think they will garner stares? When they bring matza sandwiches to school on chol hamoed Pesach, you think someone won't comment? (And yes, there will be school chol hamoed Pesach and chol hamoed Sukkos.) And just for the record, what will you do if Sarale or Moishele doesn't want to be the odd man out any longer, doesn't want to be all that different? Children seem to have an innate desire for fitting in, for being the same as their peers. What are you going to do if Sarale or Moishele start choosing the "same" they see during the daytime hours instead of the "same" that they see at home?

Now let's look at some real concerns apropos of the public schools. There is a reason why even very young children are being given anti-drug messages in the schools. There is a reason why sex education classes are starting at an ever younger age. There is a reason why anti-drinking posters can be found even in elementary schools. I'm not saying that all students in public schools indulge in every variety of troublesome behavior. But a whole lot do. This is not to say that yeshiva students never indulge in this same behavior, but they do so at a far lower rate than in the general public.

And when frum kids in this milieu see and hear what it is inevitable that they are going to see and hear, then what? Do you think that spending day in and day out in a public school setting will be completely counterable by you at home or by an after school yeshiva program? Pre-teens in particular have a tendency to copy each other's speech patterns. They want to sound with it. I may not be fond of Yinglish, but I'll take it any day over the "colorful Anglo Saxon metaphors" (thank you Mr. Spock) heard in the public school hallways. Once, on a posting dealing with sleepaway camp, a few people commented that such camp was necessary because of the, how to put this, "condition of undress" that can be seen on the city streets during warmer weather. Hang around an elementary or intermediate or junior high public school at dismissal time in warm weather. You'll get an eyeful.

There were, many decades ago, some single sex frum girl only classrooms in a public school in Williamsburg. There was sufficient registration to make this possible and sufficient room in the school. Even if you were able to get a whole class's worth of frum students together today 1)there would be no guarantee that you would have an even division of boys and girls, so that separate sex classrooms might not be a possibility and 2) there would be no guarantee that all the frum kids would be put into one classroom together. Many of the public schools are already severely over-subscribed. There isn't an empty classroom just waiting for the frum kids to come in. It is likely that the frum kids would be divided up among the already existing classes.

You think you are going to have any clout to get things arranged the way you want when you put your child into public school? Dream on. When your child is absent for yom tov and the school is open, those absences are going to count. When your child misses work because of yom tov, that work will have to be made up, and on the school's schedule, not yours. Don't expect to be able to walk into that public school office and tell the administrator that you are leaving 4 days before Pesach to go to Israel and you need to get all of Sarale's assignments ahead. And don't think you will have any influence on curriculum and what will be taught and assigned. Can't wait to see your face when "Heather Has Two Mommies" shows up in the classroom library and on the reading list. Or when your fifth and sixth graders get coed health ed. Send your child to public school and your frumkeit is mostly irrelevant to the school. You're going to be a very small minority.

No, everything about the public schools I went to was not bad. As I said, my schools provided a top notch education. A lot of the students were very nice and I wasn't totally isolated during the school day. But that was then, and now is a whole lot different. Public school may be an alternative to an unaffordable yeshiva education, but it's hardly the best alternative. Those who are using the threat of putting their children in public school when dealing with yeshivas over tuition had best be very careful that they will not be "hoist with their own petard." Or to put this another way, "Be careful of what you wish for--you just might get it."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Haveil Havalim #221

The latest Haveil Havalim is up at


Go West------

It's official now: our house is up for sale. We've been planning a move for a long time and would have been out even sooner were it not for the sudden economic depression that arrived last year. Hopefully the house will sell sooner than later. We're being reasonable in our expectations. People tell us that it could take up to a year--I sure hope not. Now that it's official, hubby and I would just like to see the thing over with so we can get on with our plans.

Our friends and family have known for years that we were planning this move, but somehow I think they thought we'd "come to our senses." Suddenly people are asking how we can leave family and friends behind. Aren't we going to miss life here?

Strangely enough, now that we've started the process of leaving, I do occasionally get choked up a bit. Yes, I'll admit I'm going to miss my house here in NY, but truthfully only because of the memories it contains, the events that took place that centered around the house. I raised my kids in this house--it echoes with the sounds of their growing up. But those memories are firmly in my head, and I'll take them with me when I go. And yes, I'll miss the view of my yard and my wildlife. In this house I know what to expect from the seasons. And no, I won't miss blustery winter storms and shoveling snow and deicing sidewalks and cars. And I won't miss the humidity one iota.

Family? Something much harder. No, I won't be an hour's drive from them. But the reality is that full time jobs and taking care of personal family obligations and just the routine jobs of living mean that we don't see each other physically all that often even with living in NY. But in today's world, getting on a plane and flying 4-1/2 hours is just not all that big a deal. And yes, we've built coming back for visits into the budget. If I need to be back here, it's not all that long to get here. There are phones where we are going, and yes, the Internet too. And when we need a hug in person, there are those planes again. And those planes go in both directions. Luckily our kids love our destination so they are all planning at least twice yearly visits.

Friends? Again, something harder. But we are all at the points in our lives that many of us are changing life styles and changing residences. One friend is staying in the NY/NJ area but is selling her house--it's just too large and too much time/money in upkeep for the way they want to live now. So many of our friends are absent from the community during yom tov and Shabbos--they are traveling to children now instead of children traveling to them. And some of them are moving into their children's neighborhoods to be closer to the grandchildren. We aren't the only ones moving out of state--the Florida contingent is alive and well and looking forward to a life without snow and mowing lawns. A few are already dividing their time between Israel and the states. With some of the friends we're not going to be physically interacting with them less when out of town than we do now. Besides, the city we're going to is a tourist magnet and business/trade show magnet, and our friends are all telling us to put them down for a visit as soon as we are settled in.

We have a gazillion reasons for why we are leaving and for where we are going, all good ones to us. And I guess we are still both of us filled with a pioneering spirit. We like the idea of being in a community that is still growing instead of full grown. We like the idea of being part of the growth process, of being able to contribute. And yes, it doesn't hurt that the state we are going to has no state income tax, no city income tax, has waaay lower real estate prices, costs less for basic services and has easy access to the things we want to do once we have time to do them.

I know the saying is "Go West, young man!" and we're not all that young and not just a young man going, but hey, it's the thought that counts. Now if you'd like to help us get out sooner, if you know anyone looking for a house in SI, please send them our way.

Living in the Rust Belt

I'm well aware that those in the Western states would probably kill for the weather NY has been getting. No, I'm not being totally ungrateful for all the rain; the reservoirs are full and drought here is so not going to be a problem. But I'm reminded of a t-shirt we once bought in Seattle. It said on it: "This isn't a tan--I'm rusting!" And a wet NY is so not a nice place to be. Apologies to the writer of the original lyrics but "Hot time! Summer in the City. Muggy, humid, wet, and it sure ain't pretty!"

My hubby has been trying without success to find a dry day to mow the lawn before it starts resembling an African delta. And along with all the rain that is spurring grass growth has come that bane to a gardener's existence--clover popping up in patches across the lawn. We'd almost become resigned to the fact that getting rid of the clover wasn't going to happen. And then this afternoon I had a couple of my woodland visitors and voila! clover problem solved.

Our bachelor hare from last summer season has clearly found a mate, and they came down from the woods to check out the goodies. Obviously clover is an epicurean delight for these hares. They spent close to an hour systematically eating off the clover blossoms. By the time they left there was only a stray clover blossom here and there left.

Living proof that one man's poison is another man's meat.

Friday, June 12, 2009

More on Jersey and Education

Orthonomics has had some reports on what those in NJ are trying to do to solve the tuition problem. Hat tip to one of my daughters who sent me the following from the Teaneck Shuls Digest. It had particular interest to me as a Staten Islander.

Yeshiva Day School for September 2009 - $6,500 tuition
Posted by: "urigutfreund" uri.gutfreund@singernelson.com urigutfreund
Thu Jun 11, 2009 2:15 pm (PDT)

From The Parental Commission for Tuition Reform

There is a group of parents considering sending their children to The Jewish Foundation School of Staten Island for the school year beginning September 2009. Tuition (including all fees and costs) is $6,500. A van will be provided for an additional cost of $2,000 per child for those who desire transportation. The van ride is aproximately 40 minutes.

It is a modern orthodox yeshiva day school with a long 50+ year track record. The school provides an excellent education in both secular and Judaic curriculums with a warm learning environment and an emphasis on Ivrit. The school's graduates perform well on the BJE and commonly go on to the following high schools: TABC, Maayanot, JEC, Bruriah and Yeshiva of Flatbush.

If there are more parents interested, we will arrange another parlor meeting in Teaneck / Bergenfield to meet the principal and learn more about the school. For more information contact Uri Gutfreund at 201-286-3323 or email at uri.gutfreund@ singernelson. com

While we are continuing to build out our High Efficiency Co-operative model for September 2010, there is no guarantee that we will have enough demand initially for older grades.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A "Catering Hall" of a Different Kind

So you think the frum world is not addicted to lavishness when it comes to making simchas? YWN is not precisely my favored reading material but my cousin told me I had to read the following that appeared there today. Surely, surely there must be better reasons for a frum Jew to make the pages of a newspaper?!

Lavish Bar Mitzvah In NYC Jail Causes Uproar
June 11, 2009
Filed under: General News — Y.W. Editor @ 7:56 am -->
The NY Post reports:
Who needs the Waldorf?

A wealthy inmate was allowed to host a lavish bar mitzvah behind bars for his son at the downtown lockup known as the Tombs, The Post has learned.

The proud papa, is a financial-scam artist who jumped bail and spent nearly 20 years on the lam.
City Correction Department officials permitted him to use his own caterer, who supplied kosher food, china, forks — and knives — for about 60 guests who partied and danced the hora for six hours in the jailhouse gym.

Family and friends were allowed to keep their cellphones — normally a huge security no-no, the inmate was given the OK to dress in clothing appropriate for the occasion.

The guest list at the jail included several prominent rabbis as well as Yaakov Shwekey, a popular Orthodox singer, and a band.

The city threw in its own present — overtime pay for the correction officers staffing the soiree.
The Dec. 30 bash was so successful that the inmate chose the same venue four months later for his daughter engagement party for 10 family members, sources said.

Shame-faced Correction officials yesterday quietly disciplined five top employees, including a rabbi and an imam, for signing off on the bar mitzvah.

“I’ve never seen, in my career, anything as stupid as this,” said a Department of Correction insider about the bar mitzvah, which was permitted over the objections of at least one jail official. “It’s outrageous what transpired.”

Correction Commissioner Martin Horn was “livid” and “views the events as a spectacularly gross error of judgment up and down the command chain,” said a department source.

Horn suspended the correction chaplain who arranged the bar mitzvah, for two weeks.
Four other officials were stripped of two weeks of vacation.

A source said all Jewish inmates were moved out of the Tombs yesterday for unknown reasons.

An Update on the Quest for What Yeshiva Tuitions Are

I haven't forgotten that I promised to gather info on what yeshiva tuitions actually are and to post those numbers on line. A few things are stalling the effort, however. First, while a few yeshivas will post their tuition numbers on their websites, most don't. Thanks to the two readers who sent me in some numbers. But please, I need more! If you have kids in yeshiva now, or know what the numbers are please send them to conversationsinklal@hotmail.com

Dating is Strange Enough and Then IT Happens

A comment on my posting on the cost of dating was about how the commenter's first date with her now husband went awry but turned out to be a fun time anyway. That lead my mind in this direction: did anyone who is now married have all "perfect" dates with the person they married? And married or single, did you ever find yourself going out with someone again despite the strangeness of a date you had with that person?

Back in my active shidduch redting days the people I fixed up reported back with stories about some truly weird/strange/"imperfect" dates, but for many the strangeness wasn't a deterrent to going out again. On the other hand....some strange dates were a real turnoff to one or both of the datees. At this point in time I honestly can't remember any more where my husband and I went and what we did on every date we had. All that really stands out are a couple of the special/good dates. I do, however, remember a couple of reallllly strange dates with other people. I'd say in my case that it was about 50/50 as to whether I went out with them again.

Thanks to my best friend for reminding me about what is probably one of my weirdest dating experiences. Boy arrived at my house and literally dragged me at 100 miles per hour to his car. Why? In the back seat was a cage, a cage containing guinea pigs, very pregnant guinea pigs. Apparently he was taking an advanced science course and these guinea pigs were to form the basis of his final paper. Unfortunately, they had been pregnant before and the results weren't positive. This time his professor suggested he take them home and watch them carefully in case assistance was needed at some point. He was afraid to leave them alone at home so they came on the date with us. Do you have any idea how many places you can't go if you have guinea pigs with you? We ended up parked in a parking lot out at Green Acres. I ran in and got us something to drink. And yes, sure enough those guinea pigs decided to give birth during the date. Any one else who can say that they were a midwife to a guinea pig while on a first date? [Note: no, I didn't go out with him a second time. It wasn't the guinea pigs per se that caused me to say no, but when it was obvious that one of the guinea pigs was about to deliver he rather excitedly yelled at me to "Do something! You're a woman and know about this stuff!" I kind of figured that any science major who couldn't tell that there were discernible differences between guinea pigs and me just wasn't my cup of tea.]

So tell me, any strange/weird dates in your background? Did they lead anyway to another date or to marriage? Come on, share!