Saturday, June 28, 2008

Coupled

I realize that much of this is not new, but it's pretty new to me. My experience, my blog, you know.

Usually, when I visit TC in New York over Shabbat, we go to his regular minyan for Shacharit. In that minyan, most of the people are old enough to be my (or TC's) parents. I also happen to know a few of these parentally-aged types. They are pleased that TC and I are together, but it's pretty low-key. I enjoy meeting TC's co-minyanites, just as I hope, when he is in town, he likes to make the acquaintance of my friends.

Last Shabbat, though, the regular minyan was having a special service that we (or at least I) didn't want to go to. So we went to Hadar (a post-denominational but essentially Conservative minyan founded by young people who are now in their mid-30's, although there are younger folks there, too). I had gone to Hadar when I lived in NYC right out of college, and I had never found it particularly friendly. I knew a few people from college and around the Upper West Side, but I never felt like I had an "in" there. I ended up going to another minyan (or two) regularly.

This time, when TC and I went to Hadar, the place had a totally feel. I felt like people were finally treating me like a whole person, now that I was part of a couple. I had several long conversations with people (people I already knew, but I still felt like I belonged). I knew more people there than I had before (people from where I live now who had moved to NYC, mostly), and of course I was more confident, with boyfriend in tow. I realize there are a number of variables here. But I still think that people closer to my age treat me differently now that I am "coupled." I told this to one of my Charedi/yeshivish friends, who is also old enough to be my mom. She was surprised, because she thought that since Hadar is all egalitarian and everything, people wouldn't be hung up on that. Ha! We're still Jewish, right? But it does raise of the question: if we're so egalitarian and progressive, why do we think women are missing something if they don't have a man?

4 comments:

elf's DH said...

I admit to having only very limited experience with Hadar. I haven't gone there many times, and none of those times were for their regular Shabbat services.

This time, when TC and I went to Hadar, the place had a totally feel. I felt like people were finally treating me like a whole person, now that I was part of a couple. I had several long conversations with people (people I already knew, but I still felt like I belonged). I knew more people there than I had before (people from where I live now who had moved to NYC, mostly), .... I realize there are a number of variables here.

I think you answered your own question. The parts that I put in emphasis are the operative ones. Hadar was founded so 20s and 30s Manhattanites who graduated from Ivy League colleges wouldn't have to go to a shul where they wouldn't be given the time of day by the old fogies. In a sense, it's a victim of its own success. Now that it gets over 200 people every two Shabbatot, it's a place where 20's and 30's who graduated from Ivy League colleges can not be given the time of day by other 20's and 30's who graduated from Ivy League colleges. The whole not-being-noticed thing is a symptom of large crowds. Being coupled helps with it in two ways, but not the way you're thinking. The first is that it gives you a natural person to talk to/stand next to when you're not talking to someone else (instead of twiddling your thumbs alone in a corner). The second is that you potentially increase the total number of people you "know" by including the union of the sets of people known by both of you.

JR said...

Three more factors:

1. People in couples seem less needy and more confident, so look more open to being approached by others.

2. Couples are only looking for casual conversation or at most friendship, so there's less a chance for friendliness to be misinterpreted.

3. A person approaching a couple can walk away at any time without awkwardness.

JS said...

My friends are so perceptive!
-JS

mama o' the matrices said...

Hmm.

I think people do relate to you differently if you have a partner (temporary or otherwise), partly because you are safer (not hunting partner), but also because you are more easily pigeonholed (classic woman with male?). I guess what I mean is that you become socially simpler to deal with. (unfair, no?)

There's an almost immediate relaxing that happens when someone realizes that you fit their world-view in some fashion. Young mothers at the playground see it when they realize that they have
babies about the same age - there's a built-in topic of conversation, a range of topics to choose from, and a way to relate to the stranger next to you. It breaks the ice.

I watched a woman at our shul stand alone after davening last week, and stopped off to introduce myself (en route to collecting the Man and the boys to go home). I didn't know her, didn't know anything but I'd hate to be standing there (have hated it), and someone had to go first. So I did.

But I shouldn't generalize from my experiences too much. Who knows? Where's a sociologist when you need one to explain things?