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It All Boils Down to Potato Salad

[I’m off on holiday on Wednesday and won’t take my shleptop with me, so any complaints after Tuesday night will be answered after my return.]

Every other day, some spam comment directs my attention to an older post on dating by Esther. Mihi placet Esther’s wit, but I also enjoy scanning through the comment threads of these posts as well as similarly themed ones on other blogs. IMHO they’re pretty amusing. To me, the quintessence of the comments could be summed up as follows:

a) every girl dreams of a frog king;
b.1) the best men are already taken or
b.2) gay or
b.3) daddy;
c) people in relationships can be pretty schadenfroh (that’s the adjective of Schadenfreude);
d) girls have got unrealistic expectations;
e) men have got unrealistic expectations.

To add my two Eurocents (about 3 US cents), I’d like to address each of the above points from my secular European perspective, well-aware of everything being sooooo much different in frum circles. (Pardon me, but most of my friends speak Yiddish as a mother tongue. Sheer tights / clean-shaven faces, OU-d snacks and the intention of living a more religious life hardly make you frum in my book.)

a) That’s pretty much correct. There’s a reason why frog king figurines are the key decoration pieces this season and frog king jewellery is the Central European accessory du jour. Here’s the one I got for myself. Admittedly, after I got it, it reminded me a bit of what you can see here (no offence meant, I like that guy).

froschkönig

It’s not as if we desperately wanted to kiss amphibians, mind you (well, some might, but that’s a tad strange, nicely put). Us girls like the illusion that there’s some fantastic more to the person we can actually get involved with. Have you ever noticed the pink princess costumes or fancy pink dresses highly loved by little girls? That’s us, 20 (give or take) years younger, two feet shorter, but at heart the same dreamy, kitschy, optimistic little princess we still are. Screw reality. Reality is for bitches and the lady friend we’ve never really liked unless she can update us on the latest gossip or has got some other useful connections.

b.1) So it seems. Mr Perfect is only just human, too. Maybe he throws his socks behind the couch? Maybe he clips his toenails in the living-room? Maybe he’s running for President?

Why do taken men or women seem more desirable?

Economically put, you can increase the demand for an object by limiting its availability, thus establish a feeling of exclusivity. Exclusivity is a big seller, why else would women spend thousands on handbags that only cost a few quid in development and production or men buy cars that, due to speed limits, they may not even ride at top speed?
Biologically put, from what I’ve read, people in love appear more attractive to us: their blood circulation is increased, which gives them a healthy glow, they smile more, their eyes and pupils are wider open (larger eyes and pupils give a more gentle appearance) etc. Also, men with little kids appear more attractive. Why? Because that saves us from buying the cat in the bag – we can see the outcome he produces and if the kids look fairly healthy, something on the back of our minds says, “Hey, that’s some quality sperm to be had.”
On a more practical note, you can engage in a flirt with taken people without any obligations. Be aware though that anything you do to the partner of a desirable mate may also happen to you. Which may be perfectly fine if you enjoy a ménage à trois.

b.2) He waxes his chest and legs, he knows the opening hours of Bloomingdale’s by heart, he knows what colours are in fashion next autumn, and he’s got a subscription to Instyle? Sorry, lass, not everybody that has got the same interests as you do has got the same sexual orientation as you do. If you want to play it safe from the start, ask him who he prefers, Ellen or Oprah or whether he’d ever apply to an extreme-makeover TV reality show.

b.3) Urgh. Gross. Gross. Gross. You may like your father all you want, but the best genetic make-up to match yours is likely to be found among men that do not resemble him. Hear me?

c) We are sooo mean, aren’t we? As you can see in b.1), not everything about relationships is pancakes and lollipops, but we do enjoy the idea that we’ve already got a great catch and like to show off a bit. So would you. We still remember the pains of being single though. Which doesn’t keep us from re-iterating how great our partner is, but we do feel you. Really.

d) & e) I don’t want to be discriminating against one gender or the other, and the basic problems appear pretty much the same to me:
Just as women dream of kings and princes in shining armour (metaphorically speaking, of course), men dream of female ideals that are tough to live up to; those might be supermodels, extraordinarily successful career women, mummy (please see b.3) on that) etc.
As much as I will agree that people on the look for a partner should adjust their expectations to a realistic level, the vibe I’ve been getting from various comments and posts as well as from notoriously single friends is that part of the problem also is the self-concept some people have got. Consider it as such: people tend to have certain expectations towards a potential partner comparable to expectations they would have towards a product they consider purchasing. Now, for a change, consider yourself that product and try to make yourself worth-selling, quality and not some tinnef that’ll get returned after first use. As a friend of mine once put it, “Everybody should shop in their own price range.”

To give you an idea, the following questions might be helpful:

Do you want somebody sophisticated, but think Antigone is some type of facial cream, Jane Austen wrote screenplays for films starring Keira Knightley, Aida is a cruise ship company, and it’s perfectly fine to put your elbows on your table during a meal?

Do you want a man that will make you a housewife and mother, but you think take-out is a pretty fine substitute for home-cooked meals and the thought of wiping up vomit at 3a.m. brings you to tears?

Do you want a cosmopolitan partner, but your idea of travelling abroad is visiting Toronto?

Do you want a second Heidi Klum, but on your good days you look like Cookie Monster fresh out of the shower?

The list can certainly be continued. For all those that haven’t given up on reading by now, I’ll disclose what this post has got to do with potato salad:
After one of my trips to NYC, I asked my Brooklyn-based boyfriend why they sold chunks of potatoes in tubs of mayonnaise at delis over there, labelled “German [style] potato salad” while real homemade German potato salad didn’t look anything like that. He replied that he thought that that exactly was what German potato salad was supposed to look like.

So, one person’s tub-full of mayonnaise fulfils some other person’s requirements towards potato salad. A person your friend may not find suitable as a partner might just be the one for you. Relieve yourself from peer pressure and determine what’s good for you. You marry your partner, not the entire wedding party.

(P.S.: I still plan on teaching my boyfriend how to cook. But shhhh.)

7 Comments

  1. Giyoret

    3/24/2008 at 4:59 pm

    Cookie Monster fresh out of the shower?? I’m not even sure what that means, but ha!

    Pancakes and lollipops–love it, Froylein. That’s a good line to throw at someone–“What, did you think love was all pancakes and lollipops? Get over yourself!” as you stomp away, letting him chew on that. 🙂

  2. froylein

    3/25/2008 at 3:17 am

    Well, Giyoret, since most of my male Ashkenazi friends claim to be allergic to fruit, a bowl full of cherries wouldn’t have quite done the trick. 🙂

  3. Esther

    3/25/2008 at 10:51 am

    I guess one of the hopes of every writer is that she continues to inspire conversation…this is certainly an interesting outgrowth of one of those previous conversations, so I guess…”thanks”?

    Lengthy. Will have to re-read sections over several months to fully understand.

  4. Ephraim

    3/25/2008 at 10:28 pm

    There are still Jews in Europe who speak Yiddish as their mamaloshen?

    How many? And is it really true that you hang around almost exclusively with Yiddish-speakers (“most of my friends speak Yiddish as a mother tongue”)? How large is your social circle, anyway?

    And is that “a” mother tongue, as in your friends have more than one? I know that most Europeans are at least bilingual, but I never knew it was possible to have more than one mother tongue. I thought by definition that a person could only have one.

  5. froylein

    3/25/2008 at 11:01 pm

    Ephraim, in Western Europe, you’ll find native speakers of Yiddish (as their mother tongue) for instance in Paris, London, Antwerp (the best, most authentic Yiddish to be heard there), in this area it’s predominantly West Yiddish. There are several communities in Eastern Europe where Yiddish is spoken.
    How large is my social circle? People I more or less regularly interact with in private about 120, people I interact with professionally 300 to 500 depending on the year.
    A mother tongue is not necessarily the mother’s ‘tongue’ but one’s native language, i.e. the one one grows up with.
    Is there anything else you’d like to know about me?

  6. Ephraim

    3/25/2008 at 11:44 pm

    I am quite aware that “mother tongue” means “native language”. A person usually has only one of those, regardless of how many languages one can speak, and regardless of how fluently one can speak them.

    My children were raised completely bilingual in Japanese and English. They have lived in the US for the past 20 years, but they are still completely fluent in Japanese. I would say it is their native language (and it is certainly their “mother’s tongue”), even though they probably speak English better now, simply from exposure. But Japanese was their first language and the one they grew up speaking. They occasionally make mistakes in English that a true native speaker would never make and that are characteristic of a person whose first language is Japanese, indicating quite clearly that their English was grafted onto a brain that functioned in Japanese rather than English.

    So, when I say “mother tongue” that is what I mean.

  7. froylein

    3/25/2008 at 11:47 pm

    I’d really like to give you more linguistic background info, but I’m off on my trip in 50 minutes.

    Sayonara. 🙂

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