Your Undivided Attention, Please
Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 15:03
Getting to know someone in a crowd is difficult. Getting to know someone with the prospect of marriage hanging over your head like a hovercraft is supremely more difficult.
It is sstuds and ystuds such as these that especially offend the sensibilities: SHIDDUCH AND SHOW, the title reads. Subtle. Go on. "Yes, it's true! Boy are totally allowed to come to Stern to see a SPECTACULAR performance AND shmooze with some fantastic women…perhaps even meet your bashret?" My stomach churns. Reader, I do not know what expression was on your face after reading that e-mail. I was cringing.
What attending a play has to do with marriage, I do not know. Yes, this email was most likely just a ploy for attention, a helpful PR tactic. And perhaps it worked. But the message is no less potent, no less affecting. And – dare I say it – no less true.
Extracurricular clubs, events, and teams within this University are drenched in expectations. No, not every date ends in marriage. But, as your tenth grade Rabbi was bound to warn, finger wagging unctuously, every marriage starts with a date, or something like a date. It is the "something like a date" category that becomes rather problematic when attending a Modern-Orthodox university seemingly bent, simultaneously, on ‘re-imagination' (whatever that means) and procreation. Yes, Modern Orthodoxy is a difficult line to walk. And who will walk that line in the future if not the offspring of the current, dedicated Torah U'Madda patriots?
To this end, every club, team, or co-educational event seems to straddle a not-so-subtle alter-agenda: making couples happen. "Something like a date" has expanded its definition to include every co-educational club, team, and event on campus, to exhausting effects.
The reality is not only painfully obvious to insiders. Outsiders sense it as well. I need only reference the New York Timesarticle written about the Seforim Sale last year. The title: benign – "Yeshiva Fair Is a Bastion for Jewish Books of the Printed Variety." Most of the article is light, informative, harmless. The last sentence: loaded. "At last year's fair, Shira Sragow, 22, who is from Teaneck and a Stern graduate, met Ari Lewis, 23, of Virginia, a Yeshiva graduate, while stacking and setting up books. Last month, they were engaged."
Is it possible to have a book-sale that is about – selling books?
Case studies abound: The shuttle is no longer merely a utilitarian mode of transportation, gaining, rather, the colloquial title "the Shidduch Shuttle." The Chesed club has done a rather spotty job maintaining an altruistic front (see sstud/ystud, sent 9/6/11: "Guys, looking to meet girls? Girls, looking to meet guys? Then apply to join the YU Chesed Club Board!" The statement was oddly juxtaposed with conclusive expletive, "Tizku L'mitzvos!" Which mitzvah – chesed or peru u'revu?(Just a little humor in honor of the Adar issue.) Shabbaton posters foreshadow: "You know what they say about the Kol HaMevaser Shabbaton…" No! I do not know, nor do I want to know! Please, just allow me to enjoy my Shabbos in ignorant, single bliss.
At the Honors Program welcoming dinner at the start of the fall semester, one invited speaker, after extolling Yeshiva University's many wonderful qualities and irreplaceable opportunities, informed the fresh-off-the-plane-from-Israel Honors students, "Look around you carefully, guys. Because, believe it or not, I actually met my wife for the first time at an Honors Dinner just like this one." The atmosphere changed. Suddenly, students starting eyeing each other suspiciously, wondering which unsuspecting stranger, hitherto cloaked in anonymity, was bound to become his/her one-day spouse. After that, conversation became rather stilted.