I have finally succumbed to the idea of posting something from a Jewish Newspaper. To top it off, this is from the Yated of all places. Now, I don’t generally read this “fine” publication for a myriad of reasons (which is not a discussion for this post), but this letter to the editor struck me as interesting and I wish to share it with you as you might find it interesting to say the least. It was either this or some mediocre poem, so be happy I chose the letter ;-) . (I have emailed the author at the address stated below about my “syndication” of his content, so if this post mysteriously disappears in the near future you’ll know why.)
A BOY'S RESPONSE
No I am not. I am not him. I am hopefully not the object of your hatred, disdain or derision. I do not rifle through shidduchim like an over-caffeinated auctioneer. I have conversed with shadchanim via phone, email and text, but the exchange is generally congenial and jointly initiated.
They are in my phone book, but they are not on my speed dial. I don't have a blocked-callers list (in case you were wondering). And no, I don't relish the process. At times it might be enjoyable, but it is not a game. It is a fateful and significant stage in the process of life, full of consideration, relationship, assessment, planning, joy, humor, stress and sometimes' pain. As such, I try to be considerate and kind, not only because it is advantageous, but also simply because of my non-cold, non-lifeless heart. And with that heart I do not cry, at least not as much as was described in the letter I authored several weeks ago. Empathy that leads to tears is certainly commendable, but that is not an ability I regularly possess, even to list on the common, exaggerated shidduch profile. The reality of the global shidduch predicament is saddening, but not debilitating. There are many who suffer through the trials of dating only to ignobly accrue the title "older single" with its adverse connotation.
But there are also scores of boys and girls who meet those challenges with confidence, courage, and, believe it or not, cheer. They gallantly utilize wellsprings of natural or practiced optimism, hopefully in tandem with trust in G-d, to navigate the emotionally choppy waters endemic to prolonged dating. Though not exclusively, I would like to consider myself a regular member of the latter troupe. There are times when I feel cruel, insensitive and alone, and there are times I feel compassionate, caring and loved. You might disagree, but I consider that normal and healthy.
So why the manic-depressive, maudlin literary outburst? Why did I write a provocative, hyperbolic, seemingly demeaning, yet deceitful letter to the Readers Write column several weeks ago?
I initially considered the answer to be glaringly obvious from the piece itself, but considering the negative feedback, I feel beholden to clarify.
The person described in "The Boy's Perspective" (Yated Ne'eman, April 23, page 8) and criticized in "Look in the Mirror" (April 30, page 116) does not exist (at least to the best of my knowledge). At the outset, he personifies the extreme version of the narcissistic, spoiled baal gaavah who deserves and savors the hatred he receives. He is pompous, conceited, and iniquitous, least as many other adjectives you might cook up with Shift-F7 (for the techies out there). There is no eye that tears for his drawn-out tenure as a single boy. We cheer when he strikes out.
Conversely, there is his alter ego, the compassionate, vulnerable, somewhat pathetic (as in pathos), pitiful yeshiva guy. He experiences the same reality as the Mr. Hyde of his bi-polar personality, but he reacts in the opposite extreme. He cries, he mopes, and he derides himself as a societal menace. He is affectively (note to the editor - not effectively) hypersensitive, throwing his life and heart under the shidduch-reality bus that he does not control. His perception of girls is monolithic and generalized; his conscience is prodigious and malignant. We cry for him. We daven for him. We sigh when he comes up to bat.
The intention in the letter was to depict two divergent responses to the same reality. Some react with haughty, prima donna arrogance, while others meekly cower before their tyrannical, towering guilt. And, admittedly, there is he who manages to balance it, sporting a sensible stock of sensitivity as well as self esteem. But we will never know him. We are not in his car after he drops her off, in his room at night, or in his mind as he lies down to rest and contends with the rest of life. We see the external stimulus but not the emotional effect. We are blind to his struggle. We are practically unequipped to judge him and, as such, it behooves us to desist from doing so. "With righteousness thou shall judge thy friend." That is the point I wanted to convey.
Hopefully, this adequately clarifies the - letter's intended message. For inquiries from those who don't want to be published in the Readers Write column, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.