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"

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?


KandaBer said...

Well, being from OOT, I am no role model (insert eye-roll here).

On our first date, my wife and I spent most of the time wandering around Barnes & Noble talking books (it started with Harry Potter, moved over to Shakespeare and then back to Anne McCaffrey).

Lion of Zion said...

i notice from some recent posts that you are under the mistaken impression that there should be an element of enjoyment and fun to dating.

KandaBer said...

We can't allow any fun!

Might lead to ... dancing!

Mina said...

Sometimes easier not to talk about yourself when you're out with what is basically a stranger. At least for the first date don't go to a lounge where all you can do is talk. Go out on an active date where you're doing or seeing something that you can use for conversation and to get comfortable with each other. Try a museum or lecture or sports activity.

harry-er than them all said...

thanks for the link!

Anonymous said...

I have absolutely no memory of what I talked to my husband about on our dates. The connection is what's important, I think. This was over thirty years ago, so I might be excused. Might I just add that either one of us could talk to anyone about anything, and we tend to make friends with the checkout clerks and bank tellers because we are chatty. amazingly we listen to each other too!

Gilah said...

Not so sure it's dating conversation topics the guys need. They need some practice before they start dating in talking with females. Faced with a woman across the table from them they seem to lose a lot of the skills they have when they speak to other guys. Or sometimes they go the opposite way and talk to the females as if they were just another guy, and that doesn't go over well either.

harry-er than them all said...

from Pulp Fiction(edited to keep with the family content of the blog):

Mia: Don't you hate that?
Vincent: What?
Mia: Uncomfortable silences. Why do we feel it's necessary to yak about nothing in order to be comfortable?
Vincent: I don't know. That's a good question.
Mia: That's when you know you've found somebody special. When you can just shut up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence.

ChocolateandWoolens said...

Board games are really great to bring on dates. My husband and I conducted our early dates over the Scrabble board (We're both very avid players).

My husband isn't American (or Israeli!) and on our first date, I attempted to find common ground with him by discussing the politics of his small country. This backfired, as he knew nothing about those politics and I apparently inadvertently intimidated him.