Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dating "In Town"

Back in the dark ages if a boy took a girl to a movie or bowling or to play miniature golf it was usually going to be somewhere "local" in the girl's vicinity. And when they finished with whatever activity they were doing, they went to someplace local to get a snack. But here's the thing; dating was not some secret activity, fraught with danger if you were discovered to be doing it. Once we got out of high school we all were dating. And yes, some of us even had a quasi-official way of signalling whether we wanted to stop and chat for a moment and be introduced and introduce who we were with or whether we were supposed to develop "temporary blindness." Here's a real shocker: sometimes we "double dated," two or more couples going out together for the evening--talk about broadcasting the dating news!

Fast forward to today. Today it is absolute anathema to be discovered to be indulging in dating. Heaven forfend if a dating couple should actually run into anyone that either party knows while on the date. Furtive hiding behind pillars ensues. Extreme mortification, more suitable to splitting your pants or losing your slip, also ensues. Those dating couples are sure that everyone is smirking at them--and some probably are. So what?

Ever play the Jewish Geography game? That's the one where your plane gets temporarily stranded in Timbuktu and while waiting in the airport lounge a long skirt and long sleeves is eyeing your long skirt and long sleeves. Within five minutes of sidling next to each other you have discovered that party A is muchatonim with your sister's brother in law's niece's choson. If you are dating in New York then all of the city, every last nook and cranny, is going to be "local" in the sense that you can guarantee that you are going to run into someone you know your own age, or someone who is friends with your parents or who davened together with you for years in the community you used to live in or who went to camp with you or who went to yeshiva/seminary with you, or who was in some of your college classes etc. etc. etc..

So, a boy from Brooklyn takes out a girl from Staten Island. Clearly he can't take her to someplace in Staten Island and he can't go to Brooklyn either. So maybe they can try Queens, only the girl's aunt lives there and she has spent Shabbosim with this aunt and is thus recognizable, so no go. Besides, her roommate from Seminary lives in Queens. So maybe they could go to Manhattan, where they will run into all the others from Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island who are hiding out from local observation. You could try the Bronx, but the Bronx Zoo is a dating magnet and you are for sure going to run into someone you know.

You know one reason why dating can be so expensive? Because daters spend so much time in dodging the "date observers." Remaining anonymous can cost you multiple bridge and tunnel tolls, never mind the expenses of whatever you are actually going to do on the date. And it still doesn't help. There are so many dating couples in this city at any one time that the odds of not meeting someone you know are probably zero.

Perhaps what is needed is not what is happening today. Perhaps, instead of hiding our dating habit--something that is impossible to do anyway--, we need to rely more on etiquette. Perhaps we need to learn that staring in public is just plain rude. Perhaps we need to learn that calling your 567 best friends as soon as you get home to report that you saw Girl X out with Boy Y is not the mark of a cultured or couth person. Perhaps we need to learn to just smile and nod and move on to our own table. Perhaps we ought to remember that old saying about "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

And just maybe we need to learn that discussing who is dating whom should be just about as important as knowing if your friend is constipated or not--TMI. You're dating? Unless you are 9 and he is 10, I really, truly don't much care. I would bet that most normal people really don't care.


SaraK said...

Perhaps we need to learn that staring in public is just plain rude. Perhaps we need to learn that calling your 567 best friends as soon as you get home to report that you saw Girl X out with Boy Y is not the mark of a cultured or couth person

Exactly! I could care less if people see me on a date, but I hate that people are such yentas. Just because you see me on a date doesn't mean I am getting engaged next week.

Orthonomics said...

The hiding from everyone while dating is just plain craziness. I have said to others. To the singles who don't want anyone to know they are dating I say, "it would be worse if people assumed you weren't dating."

Unfortunately, the secrecy can carry forward into other aspects of life. I like it when we host a single who will drop a hint that he/she is interested in meeting someone. We have had singles over in the past that have positioned themselves with such secrecy that it takes guts to call them up and ask, "can I introduce you to a friend?" because you really feel like you are asking about a deep dark secret.

Bas~Melech said...

The problem is not with the dodger/hiders. The problem is that the GOSSIP is out of control and since there is no way for me to change that before I get married (well, I should hope I get some good dates sooner than that...) I will go on trying to avoid hot spots, at least in the NY area.

concernedjewgirl said...

I am so glad that I live out of town. Dating was hard enough. We also hid out but not to such extent. I agree with the other commenter's, its the gossip that people are hiding from.

ProfK said...

I am NOT condoning the gossiping but I would ask you to ask yourselves this: What happens when you see someone acting furtively? Ever walk into a room and suddenly have someone take the paper they were writing on and immediately stuff it out of sight? Suddenly that paper becomes the focus of your thoughts. What's being hidden? What is going on? Is it good or bad? And gossip is about to be born.

When couples go to great lengths to hide out from others, when they don't acknowledge people that they know when they run into them on a date, when they hide the identity of those they are dating or refuse to even admit that they are dating, when they act like contestants on "I've Got a Secret," they arouse idle curiosity, and that curiosity prods gossip into being. All the cloak and dagger actions are like waving a red flag in front of the "gossip bulls."

Maybe if daters stopped treating their dates like a plot out of a John LeCarre novel, the gossips would have less fodder for their weapons.

SuperRaizy said...

I agree with Bas-Melech. Gossip is way out of control in our communities. You can't even go to the supermarket without having your whereabouts (and outfit) reported to your mother-in-law.
You're right, ProfK, when we see people we know out on a date
(or in any public place) we should just nod, smile, and keep our mouths shut. A little discretion, people.

SaraK said...

I don't act like I am doing anything wrong when I am on a date. In fact if I see a friend I will say Hi and not hide, but this is a 100% true story that happened to me (in the city that I come from, not where I currently live).
I was on a 1st date, it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, we went to a restaurant to pick up some take out for a picnic in a park. The owner of the food establishment sees me sitting with a guy and walks over to us and says "Did I miss a mazel tov?" The guy (who was NOT from my city) was mortified and I had no words. And that is why you can't go out to eat on a date in that city. It's like a vicious cycle, people assume you are serious/engaged if you are going out to eat. This was NOT a fancy place at all; probably one of the most casual, in fact.

Anonymous said...

Cut it out already Professor.

You make too much sense ! ;-)

You're not in Oregon anymore, you traded in the wild West for the crazy East !

Anonymous said...

"some of us even had a quasi-official way of signalling whether we wanted to stop and chat for a moment and be introduced and introduce who we were with or whether we were supposed to develop "temporary blindness.""

Care to elaborate ?

"Perhaps we need to learn that staring in public is just plain rude."

Certain people seem to have missed that lesson. They gather around and gawk at things like Hatzoloh and accident sites.

Some people are significantly lacking in maturity.

Perhaps people need to do stuff that is not so 'frum' (assuming no halachic impediments) to evade their classmates. Maybe something like (gasp) bird watching ? Or would that be verboten since someone might get dirty ?

Michelle said...

As I wrote on LWY--who cares if someone sees me on a date? They'll think I'm getting engaged.

A few years ago, my brother and I stopped in to 7-11 to pick up slurpees. We had just gotten off the highway, so we happened to be at one of the less populated ones. There I met a former classmate. Yes, she was with a boy. I didn't think twice about it. I nodded at her, got back in the car with my brother, and it wasn't a topic of juicy discussion. Or any discussion at all for that matter. She called me a few days later to announce her engagement. "I'm sure you figured it out when you saw me at 7-11. Why else would I be there with a boy, right?" Wrong.
How was I to know if it was a 1st date or 15th? And why would I care? And I've gone to 7-11 on first dates. Populated ones. So ha.

Lion of Zion said...


"You know one reason why dating can be so expensive? . . ."

another reason is that the official dating script that makes spending at least $100+ at a fancy restaurant in manhattan requisite on a first date. i really don't envy my RW friends in this regard.

"So, a boy from Brooklyn takes out a girl from Staten Island."

sorry, but this violates the first rule of practical dating: it's not worth it if you have pay a toll to get there. (and with SI it's even worse because there is not much to do there at night and you end up paying the toll twice)

(ok, just to show that i'm not devoid of any romantic sentiment:

ProfK said...

Today everyone picks on Staten Island as being too expensive for dating purposes but in the old days it was Far Rockaway that the Brooklyn boys shunned. Back then it was a two-fare zone on the subway--you paid another token to get out when you got to the Rockaways. And if you were driving it was the 25 cent toll on the Marine Park Bridge that cost too much. When my hubby arrived from Boro Park to my home in Far Rockaway for the first date he mentioned that it was kind of strange that he had accepted the date since I was only the second girl he had ever dated from Far Rockaway--it was just too far "out of town."

The moral of this story is clear: just as jewelers keep their most precious gems safe in the vault and only brought out for the truly discerning customers, there are some precious and rare gems in Staten Island and--gasp--New Jersey. But we only come out for truly discerning customers.

Lawyer-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

Couldn't give me a link :)

Seriously, though- I don't care if I'm spotted on a date. But I respect and understand that my date would prefer not to be seen by all her friends and family on a first date.

Anonymous said...

Back when I was maybe 22 or 23, I went out to a local fast food restaurant with my brother who's 18 months younger than I am. We were not dressed up--I was probably wearing a denim skirt and a sweatshirt. He was probably wearing jeans & a sweatshirt. For months after that, people asked, "So, nu, do you get a mazal tov?" I finally traced it back to that burger I'd had with my brother and a woman who had been a high school teacher of mine so knew me but not my brother. She apparently told the whole world--which was awful of her!

ProfK said...

Truly sorry not to have put up the link, but I've been having a kind of "squirrly" morning. :)

Lion of Zion said...


"Back then it was a two-fare zone on the subway"

the subway on a date? are you nuts?

"The moral of this story is clear: just as jewelers keep their most precious gems safe in the vault . . ."

or one could draw a comparison to a zoo or a prison, where the respective inmates of each are kept as inacessible as possible?

Lion of Zion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lion of Zion said...

as long as we are on the subject or spreading rumors, a few years ago there was a rumor i was being expelled from school for cheating. despite the fact that there are only a handful of religious jews in my school, somehow it took only 2 days for the rumor to spread to strangers spread all the way to baltimore. i'm not exaggerating:

ProfK said...

Good grief! Do people ever stop to think before they engage their mouths? Reminds me of my pregnancy that wasn't because I was seen eating pickles at a sheva brochos.

SaraK said...

These people really need to get a life! Lion and ProfK, those are crazy stories!

Anonymous said...

You fetishise something, people treat it like a fetish. If you make such a big deal out of boys and girls hanging out, it shouldn't be a surprise that people make a big deal out of it when it does happen. In communities where boys and girls are allowed to socialise and having friends of the opposite sex isn't totally taboo, they can date without all this nonsense you describe. And no, they don't all get pregnant at sixteen, either.

ProfK said...

I like your choice of the word "fetish." It has exactly the negative connotation needed to describe the activity of "date watching."

Anonymous said...

World has done a 180 degree turn since I was younger. Back then the whole point was that everyone but everyone should think that you were dating. Not to be dating was too horrible to think about. No girl would answer the phone in her parents' house on a Saturday night and the message given to people was usually "she is out, she'll call you tomorrow," even if you were standing right there. Boys knew they had better call on a Tuesday night to ask for a date for over the weekend. To call on a Thursday and ask a girl out for that weekend would be insulting. It would mean that you didn't believe she could have a date for the weekend. Guys and girls would lie about where they had been on a night they weren't at home. You went to the dentist in reality but you smiled and let people know that you had been on a date instead of where you really were.

Today it seems that nobody dates, or at least will admit to it. If nobody is dating where are all the marriages coming from? I guess that like babies, spouses are found underneath a cabbage leaf.

Mindy Schaper said...

GOODNESS- the name "End the Madness" is just so apt.
Are we so bored in our complacent life that we have nothing to do but "yente"? Goodness, you could actually laugh at this ludicicy.

For more insight into how crazy yentaning and butting into other people's business can get, read the part inJACP's book, Miracle Ride, where she goes to the grocery in a bandana and gets yelled at.

Ludicrous is not the word.
Thanks for the clarifying and eye-opening post, ProfK.

Bas~Melech said...

People, this is no laughing matter. Let me assure you that it is very embarrassing to both parties of the conversation when you have to explain to a congratulater that you're not actually engaged after all. I felt so bad for the person (who had been told I was engaged) that I barely had a chance to feel embarrassed myself... though I felt my ears go red anyway.

Anonymous said...

One reason for the gossiping? It's a lot easier to gossip then to get out there and work at finding someone who might be shaich for a single. Spread the rumor that someone is engaged and you no longer have to worry about their getting married.

My brother, sister and I all in NY at the same time and single. We meet often for dinner at a restaurant to catch up on our lives, sometimes all three of us, sometimes just two of us. Can't even count the number of times we have been rumored to be engaged because we were seen in public with someone of the opposite sex. My brother was once turned down for a shidduch because he had a broken engagement, even though he had never been engaged, but the rumor was out there that he had been.

So which came first--dating couples being really secretive because people like to gossip about them or people gossiping because dating couples act so secretively? Either way, the gossiping is wrong.

Batya said...

I had now idea. I'm glad I've been long married all these decades...

Anonymous said...

I am so with Batya. Not only glad that I've been married for years and didn't have to go through all this narishkeit but also happy that I lived somewhere where even now it's not like what was described. It's not that people don't gossip here, but nowhere near what I'm hearing goes on in NY and really not about who is dating who. Buy a Mercedes and the conversation might begin.