Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Matchmaker

Tonight, I had my first date since I started the blog. Don't worry; it wasn't with a matchmaker. It was set up by a matchmaker. This is not a matchmaker in the shadchan sense but someone more modern than that. I decided it would be a good alternative to JDate, which is not to say that I haven't had some good luck with JDate (The Ex, for example).

It turns out it wasn't such a good alternative, though, since on JDate I would have had to make an effort to find someone I had less in common with than this guy. He was a perfectly nice guy, but did she pick his name out of a hat? He is Israeli, around my age, lived in Europe for a few years, and is now getting his M.B.A. at one of the foremost schools of hotel management in the U.S. He is one of the only Israelis I have ever met with an accent I have trouble understanding (I think that his time in Europe may have changed his accent). On the phone I can barely understand him, and even sitting across from him in a restaurant I didn't catch everything. But maybe that's okay, because (and this is the key part of why the date didn't work) we had VERY LITTLE to say to each other. We (mostly I) were able to keep the conversation going for two hours because we had never met and could exchange information about our families, jobs, etc., but already towards the end we were running out of things to talk about. Not promising.

OK, perhaps I am being too hard on the matchmaker. This guy and I actually have three things in common: 1) he's somewhat observant; 2) he loves to read; 3) he likes travel to Europe. I think that the matchmaker, whose practice is largely regular American Conservative, thinks that any two people who are more observant than that will have lots in common. Or maybe I'm being too cynical. The point is that there was no click, which was disappointing. I almost never have luck with dating Israelis. I think there's a big cultural difference in many cases.

My parents asked me if I will go out to him again. I told him that whenever I am completely non-interested in a guy, he calls. I guess my dad is right that non-interest is a turn-on. If only I could fake it for guys I DO like.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Conservadoxy and its Discontents

I know, creative subject line. I have wished since at least when I worked on my high school paper that I could make up short, witty titles for articles and other short prose, but I can't. Oh, well.

So, what does Conservadoxy mean to Katrina, you might ask? If you consider yourself Conservadox, you might have a vague idea, or you might disagree violently with what I am about to say. If you are not Conservadox, you might think Conservadoxy is a bunch of nahrishkeit, but the same can be said for a lot of Jewish labels and the particular teeny tiny hashkafic segments of the Jewish world they represent. Here is my answer, anyway, in list form (it is not only my views but also, I hope, contains enough hedging/grab-bagging to snag others too):

1. Being Shomer (or in my case Shomeret) Shabbat and Yom Tov
2. Keeping hekhsher kosher in the house, assuming you don't live in Arkansas or Europe or some place like that, and perhaps outside, too, or perhaps eating some fish and dairy out and feeling guilty about it
3. Being comfortable with davening in either an Orthodox minyan or a so-called Traditional Egalitarian minyan (essentially same liturgy as Orthodox, full Torah reading, but women lead and read Torah, and women and men sit togther); now I now some will say that you don't have to be comfortable in a mechitsa minyan to be Conservadox, and I don't disagree--I just happen to be.
4. At least entertaining the idea of Taharat Ha'Mishpachah after marriage, plus some (varying based on the person, but probably not skirt-related) definition of tzniut before marriage
5. Wearing pants and not feeling guilty about it, if you're a woman
6. Some kind of davening commitment, whether it be the whole shebang on Shabbat, or Shabbat plus one service per day approximately during the week, or more of course
7. Some kind of regular Torah study commitment
8. Having some halakhic principles

Perhpas the real purpose of this post is to complain about #8. I live in a community in which I increasingly feel that people who look at things halakhically are considered Conservadox or Orthodox, while people who don't are considered tolerant and friendly. I don't want to get into the specifics of halakhic controversies that have ensnared at least one of the shuls where I daven, since I am trying for at least some degree of anonymity here. Also there is the lashon hara thing, which maybe I should have put on my list above. The point is that in a shul in which I sometimes daven, which identifies itself as post-denominational, which I consider to be another name for Conservative (and that at least is their style of davening), there have been two halakhic controversies this academic year. It may not be correct to call them halakhic controversies, though, because in both cases, one side has placed halakhic considerations as the number one determining factor in the final decision, and the other has not. Those of us who have the temerity to suggest that although some situations are unfortunate and hurt people's feelings, they still have to be resolved with halakhah firmly mind, have mostly been dismissed as Orthodox and therefore out of touch with the concerns of the majority of people in the shul, and/or intolerant, and/or unfeeling. This disturbs me greatly. I am not unfeeling. I'm not exactly a fundamentalist, but what Conservadoxy means to me, increasingly, is holding the line against Conservative Judaism and its meta-halakhic standpoint. I think that some of the problem in the case of this shul is the massive under-education of many of its members, which is not their fault. Plus there is shul politics and the bonds of friendship, which admittedly makes things more dificult.

Don't worry. This blog is not going to be me venting about my various shuls. I have just been frustrated about this for a long time and wanted to get it off my chest. End of rant.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Vibes (or, The Shaigetz, Part II)

So, I was talking with the Shaigetz yesterday. We have been talking about the issue of him semi-consciously sending me weird vibes that distract me. He has apologized and promised to cut it out if at all possible, and I have said that I get he's an affectionate person, and I'm glad our friendship means a lot to him, but, you know, I have to do work every once and a while!

Then we got onto the issue of vibes within the Cambridge Conservative/Conservadox/Modern Orthodox singles community. I told him that one reason why his vibes kind of threw me for a loop was that in the singles community here--which isn't formal like the one on NY's Upper West Side but rather is made up of whoever happens to be single and may be interested in not being single forever--THERE ARE NO VIBES. Everyone is so terrified of accidentally conveying interest, which could be returned, of course, but is more likely to render everything awkward and/or invite crushing rejection before anyone even knows anyone else very well, that it is as though I am in an emotional vacuum every time I try to have a conversation with any single male of the opposite sex in my age bracket. Part of the problem is that the community is so small that no one wants to alienate anyone else. That's fine, but how am I supposed to know if I even want to ask you out/be asked out by you, Mr. Local Single Male of the Opposite Sex in My Age Bracket (Mr. LSMOSMAB, for short), if you won't answer my e-mails or have more than a ten-minute conversation with me? This is not a rhetorical question. Seriously, how?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Shaigetz

First of all, I know that this is not a politically correct designation, but it has more of a ring to it than "the non-Jew." It also suggests the intensity of communal disapproval of inter-dating and intermarriage, which I support. The Shaigetz is a colleague who grew up in a very Jewish town and knows more about Judaism than some Jews I know. I realize this makes no halakhic difference.

Okay, enough about terminology. The Shaigetz bought me jewelry on his trip abroad to visit his brother. He gave me the bracelet today. Oh, boy. It's beautiful. I know that I am starved for male attention, and it doesn't help that he is my preferred physical type, single, and a great guy. I am have been seriously considering jumping his bones. I know that is a terrible idea.

Fortunately, I have a fair amount of self-control, and although I do not consider myself a halakhic Jew, I believe that one of the key things that the Torah and halakhah are trying to teach us is that we do not have to give into our desires. This is not about my going all Protestant on your ass. One of the values of kashrut, I think, is to remind us that we are not just animals who eat everything in front of us; we take a moment to wash our hands and say brachot to remind us of the fact that we are supposed to be "k'doshim" (and also that food comes from God). When I was with my Ex, we were not Shomer Nagiah or anything, and sex is not how I roll, but I did think carefully about what we did do. It's part of balancing modern and traditional Jewish values. Oh, boy, being Conservadox is fun. I'm going to throw myself into my work now.

Monday, January 14, 2008

MLK Inanity

I'm taking a break from my usual (although two posts doesn't exactly make it "usual") ruminations on my love life to comment on a political controversy that is sweeping the 10 people who are still following the Presidential election.

Basically, Hillary Clinton, whom I support, said that President Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) deserved either a great deal or most (I'm not sure) of the credit for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Obama campaign fired back by suggesting that she meant to insult Martin Luther King, Jr., who led the work on the ground that eventually produced the Civils Right Act. Clinton qualified her remarks somewhat, saying that she meant that, regardless of how much great work a given individual such as Dr. King does, one still must work within the political system in order to affect real change (this may provide a parallel, although she did not say so, with the Democratic goal of establishing some sort of national health care system). On the same day, her supporter, the head of BET, made another snide comment about Obama's drug use, which the Clinton campaign had said it would stop doing. Obama said that Clinton was trying to drive him off message, while pundits speculated that it's no coincidence that this is happening in the same week as the South Carolina primary, where about half of Dem voters (or maybe likely voters?) are African-American.

My take on this is that it's inane and distracting. Of course, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both right. In order for major, society-changing legislation to pass, much work must be done at the grass roots--and a charismatic leader certainly doesn't hurt--and then the State and National Legislature and President have to step in (and the Supreme Court has to not torpedo it). Scholars have also argued--no coverage of this in the mainstream media yet--that, had it not been for the assasination of JFK in November, 1963, and the resevoir of good will that it built up for the Democratic Party, LBJ would not have had the political capital to sign the Civil Rights Act. Anyone for an argument over whether Lee Harvey Oswald (or, if you are conspiracy minded, the CIA, Mob, RFK, and/or Castro) did more than MLK to get the Civil Rights Act passed? I'm getting tired of this . . .

Okay, that's off my chest now. In the next post, I plan to discuss: The Shaigetz (of course, there's a Shaigetz. There always is one).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Ex

I am thinking about trying to get back together with my Ex. Now, I know this sounds perhaps a little desperate, but consider this: he's smart, good-looking, has a job and a nice apartment (and still single). To a graduate student, this sounds like a good deal. We have gotten back in touch over e-mail lately, and while we have only been shooting the breeze (after I apologized to him and he forgave me for sending him one hostile e-mail soon after we broke up), it might be a foundation for something. Anyway, I'm not planning on doing anything right now, since he doesn't live around here. I will be up his way around Pesach.

Seriously, folks, he was my first serious boyfriend, and while I was concerned that he was commitment-phobic (which he was, of course, since he's a guy), I think now that I was also pretty freaked out about the idea of sharing myself with someone. I don't mean that sexually; that's not how I roll. I mean that I have lived alone for a long time, and I always felt a little cramped when he was around. I think that if I had been more honest with him about that, he would have understood and given me more space. In other words, he pushed me away somewhat, but it was mutual. For now, I'm just e-mailing and taking it slow . . .

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Welcome to my blog

I decided to start this blog pretty much on a whim this Motzei Shabbat, although I've been pondering it for a month or so. Some of my best friends are bloggers, and I have also recently started reading a number of blogs by strangers that I like. The major impetus, really, is that I am still single, and I need to talk about it in some format that includes neither my very worried parents or my patient best friend (who is married), who could probably use a break. I consider myself to be smart and funny and not bad-looking, so I don't really get what has happened. I know it's hard to be Conservadox and a woman because there are approximately 10 Conservadox men who have not now, nor ever have, attended JTS, and they are all married. I'm open, though, to both "Conserv" and "dox" guys, too, which should in theory be less limiting. There are never as many Jewish guys in the Boston area, where I live, as in New York, but I lived in New York once and didn't like it (I would not rule out relocation, though, now that I am older).
Don't worry, though; this blog will not be all kvetching. I have other things in my life as well, such as my dissertation (parents: you're having trouble finding a man because men have trouble with smart women), politics, fiction (which I can read on Shabbat; eat it, non-Shomer-Shabbat grad students!), television, and of course my friends.