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"But I am angry, even though I cannot always explain who I am angry at."
February 28, 2011 8:03 PM   Subscribe

Nice Jewish Girl is an unmarried orthodox Jew. She started a blog six years ago. She wrote about being Shomer Negiah (not allowing herself physical contact with men other than relatives or a husband) and being a woman in her mid-thirties that has never kissed a man. Over the run of the blog, she decided to stop being Shomer Negiah while still looking for an Orthodox husband, kissed a man, and then broke up with him. For the last three years, she has been silent. Recently, she has returned to discuss the effect of Jewish law on her view of sex.
posted by ignignokt (154 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite

 
This makes me sad.
posted by phunniemee at 8:21 PM on February 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


That is intense and makes me worry about some people I know.

Also it makes me feel a little better about the ambiguities I've chosen to occupy in my life.
posted by doteatop at 8:24 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Properly, what she is discussing is the Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law. Who represent a minority of Jews in the world.

Other branches of Judaism have different views on sex, touching, and marriage. As anybody who has been to a Reform Jewish high school weekend retreat can attest.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:26 PM on February 28, 2011 [38 favorites]


An amazing glimpse into a life. Thank you.
posted by rtha at 8:26 PM on February 28, 2011


My heart breaks for her. I wish her all good things, and particularly that she finds the lifetime commitment she wants; but first I wish her the man she needs at this moment.

And fleetmouse, it's a bit more complicated than "invisible sky wizard".
posted by jokeefe at 8:36 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Reminds me of the article On sex and the single Mormon. Following a strict sexual abstinence code can be manageable if a person is part of an isolated religious community or marries young, but how does a person deal with the feelings of regret and betrayal when the promises of the religion begin to ring hollow and they realize how many years they've missed out on?
posted by zinzin at 8:36 PM on February 28, 2011 [29 favorites]


Reminds me of the article On sex and the single Mormon - I figured that article would be about "famous" Mormon virgin Elna Baker, who recently announced she's a virgin no more.


I hope she finds happiness. It is tough for those of us raised in a religious faith to navigate the shaky ground between full religious devotion and sexual freedom once we get past the age of having a church youth group to get us all Rah Rah Abstinence! every Sunday night.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:44 PM on February 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


"One of the privileges of being 40 is that I know well what would make me feel cheap and what would not. It is one of the advantages of not being 18 anymore."

There's something important buried in these sentences, but I haven't quite figured out what. Overall, this blog post is written with a lot of thought and nuance. For me, at least, she not only makes a compelling argument for sexual freedom among conservative religious communities, but she also makes sex-radical folks like me better understand what it means to struggle with a commitment to one's faith.
posted by LMGM at 8:48 PM on February 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


ThePinkSuperhero: "It is tough for those of us raised in a religious faith"

Hey now! I was raised in a religious faith. I just rejected it outright.
posted by mwhybark at 8:51 PM on February 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


That was really interesting, and kind of sad. Like others have said, I hope she finds happiness, whatever that ends up meaning for her.

It is tough for those of us raised in a religious faith to navigate the shaky ground between full religious devotion and sexual freedom once we get past the age of having a church youth group to get us all Rah Rah Abstinence! every Sunday night.

It's not all cupcakes and roses for the rest of us, either, but from what I have seen watching friends navigate that path, some people have incredibly tough times trying to figure out how to navigate that. The worst are sometimes the ones like the author of this blog, who take the strictures so seriously but somehow miss out on the promised benefits. There is a sense of betrayal, and of loss, that is so sad to see.
posted by Forktine at 8:55 PM on February 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Weird. I was just thinking about her and hoping that she'd gotten what she wanted.

I know some people who were raised in religions that were heavily into sex-being-holy-and-for-the-marrieds. It seems like people either get married really young, or wind up having sex before marriage and then feel terrible about themselves. (Also, frequently, they get pregnant.)

On the other hand, one only has to check out the human relations category on AskMe to see that embracing sexual freedom isn't necessarily a ticket to happiness, either. Especially if you're a person who's looking for marriage and family, as this person is. So I think that any kind of response to this very honest and thoughtful piece that leans toward "Huzzah! Sex is the best! Tell the sky wizard to eff off!" is kind of missing out on some real thinking.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 8:57 PM on February 28, 2011 [18 favorites]


that really was a great Curb episode
posted by moorooka at 9:03 PM on February 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


No matter how "religious" a man may seem on the outside, no matter that every Friday night he sings "sheker hachen v'hevel hayofi," if you are not pretty enough nothing else matters, not really, not in dating.

In case anyone is wondering, she's referring to a line in the Eshet Chayil ("Woman of Valor") hymn, which is traditionally sung on Friday nights in some Jewish homes, to honor the woman of the house. The part she quotes means "charm is deceptive and beauty is vain," and it concludes "but a woman who fears God shall be praised."

Anyway, her story is sad, and I hope her crisis of faith takes her somewhere productive. I wonder how much she has talked to her rabbis or anyone else in her community; from her description it sounds like this has been mostly a personal struggle for her.
posted by albrecht at 9:04 PM on February 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


And, lest we get too carried away, let's also remember that marriage isn't necessarily a gateway to a life of happiness, regardless of whether one was abstinent before the wedding.

Indeed, there are many places at which the promises of the orthodox religious life-plan can fail to materialize, including (but not limited to) life-long virginity, miserable marriage, fucked up children, abandonment in a retirement home, dying alone, or the lack of an afterlife.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:05 PM on February 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


As anybody who has been to a Reform Jewish high school weekend retreat can attest.

Conservative Jewish weekend retreats, too! Come for the spirituality, stay up later for the illicit frolicking.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:06 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm as inclined to make fun of invisible sky wizards as the next guy, but there are so many ways to be happy and so many ways to be unhappy. I don't think merely adhering to a religious code has made her so unhappy. Life, in general, is hard, even more so when you are alone. I hope she feels better.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:06 PM on February 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


Fuck you God, for making people feel this way.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:09 PM on February 28, 2011 [21 favorites]


And fleetmouse, it's a bit more complicated than "invisible sky wizard".

Yeah, that one bothered me, too. The faith of Judaism has contributed hugely to the general welfare of all mankind. And the tenets and traditions of Judaism are the primary reason that a people so frequently persecuted through history survive and exist in whole form today, rather than existing solely as a scattering of genes in a few individuals, remaining from a long-forgotten race. Personally, I think we're better off for it.

It's got not much to do with God, as such. It's about the struggle that often exists, to live within a cultural tradition one cherishes and loves. I've yet to encounter any way of life - religious, cultural, social, whatever - that guarantees all its followers happiness and personal satisfaction, and I've been around and seen a lot.

I hope the best for "Nice Jewish Girl" and I especially hope that she can find what she wants within her way of life, and that she can keep her faith and traditions intact.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:14 PM on February 28, 2011 [18 favorites]


God didn't have anything to do with this.

Mostly, because there is no god. But beyond that, because this is a 3,000-year-old text as interpreted by 1500-year-old rabbis and reinforced by centuries of dipshits.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:15 PM on February 28, 2011 [57 favorites]


In search of a modest proposal.
posted by unliteral at 9:17 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


This hits a little too close to home MeFi.

Switch Roman Catholic for Jewish, 30 for 40, and guy for girl. I haven't had any meaningful relationships in over six years. I'm not saving myself, but whatever passes for casual sex or flings these days is foreign and beyond awkward to me. I want something substantial, cant seem to find it because I don't know how to find it. From the outside I'm cold and callous, on the inside I'm too soft and gullible. I go out but I don't talk to people. The last six months I've gotten fed up with even worrying about it. The thought has crossed my mind to offer my friends $50,000 to find me my future wife.
posted by SirOmega at 9:21 PM on February 28, 2011 [19 favorites]


People are only too happy to tell you to wait your turn, to passively exist for that magic moment (which you are not allowed to so much as anticipate lest, like a watched pot, it does not come to a boil), not to want or to pine or even be a potential source of discomfort by trying. Stand back. Love will find you some day. Or maybe not, not everyone gets what they want. You're doing the right thing. Butterflies will only land on your shoulder if you aren't chasing them.

Bull. Shit.

It does not have to be love or even the humble sex, but it is always about finding someone who will shoulder the burden of getting out of the way for some elevated principle. Extolled virtues are unpleasant when internalized and are so much more comfortable at a remove of at least one person. So some poor sap out there falls for the big lie and — get this — actually goes ahead and does that about which everyone talks but so few act. "Isn't it nice," they say to one another, "that she's doing that?" And, if you're her or someone like her, you'll get the polite smiles and the little pats that are seventy percent relief at having someone take care of the painful business of serving as an example and rest relief at having just a little less competition. And it isn't so much that you expected to get a cookie for doing your little dance so much as you feel punished for doing The Right Thing. You're perfectly aware of how easy it is to go ahead and do what it is you would like to do, even if the reality would fall short of the expectations others have handed you and you have taken up, those rules in which you have just invested so many years; to let go now would mean decades wasted and foolishness admitted ... but those rules do not keep you warm at night.

If she's ever in town, I will buy her a few drinks. We can put Neko Case on the jukebox and sing along, "That echo chorus lied to me with its 'hold on ... hold on, hold on.'"
posted by adipocere at 9:24 PM on February 28, 2011 [30 favorites]


If she's never been kissed, as it says in her blog banner and her "about me," how did she do that post in 2005 about being kissed?
posted by John Cohen at 9:32 PM on February 28, 2011


If she's never been kissed, as it says in her blog banner and her "about me," how did she do that post in 2005 about being kissed?

The blog banner also says she is 34, and her recent post says she is 40. I think perhaps she has not updated the banner in about... six years or so.
posted by grouse at 9:38 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


SirOmega, I'm sorry. I can't make it at all better, but have an internet hug.
posted by zug at 9:48 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure the fooling around thing is necessary indicative of the wider religious belief. I think that my church camp counselors would have been utterly scandalized if they'd had half an idea what people were all up to. But, anyway.

This is sort of how I gravitated to a considerably more liberal tradition. I was brought up with the idea that I was supposed to get married and have babies. And never mind that I didn't really think much of guys in general to start with, there was also the unsettling development that it was very clear that within our youth group, while our parents seemed to be kind of expecting us to pair off, it didn't really seem to be that simple. I think I saw what would have turned into exactly what this woman is writing about. The way that we were all told that virtue was the only thing that mattered, but the Good Christian Kids who settled down early into reasonably happy-looking lives were all trim with shiny hair and clear faces and nice clothes.

It does feel like a definite betrayal when you realize it works this way, because not only are you laden with all the outside world's expectations, but suddenly you have to be virtuous on top of it? Well, the girls are. The expectations for the guys were, of course, always different. Thankfully, by the time I was sixteen I'd figured all this out, but it still took me until a couple years ago to accept just how different my life was going to be from my original plan. I can't imagine trying to make that adjustment at forty.
posted by gracedissolved at 9:52 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


God didn't have anything to do with this.

Religion doesn't even have a lot to do with this. It's about living your life in a box, to a code, by a formula. It's about going through life following your code, being virtuous. It's comfortable, numbing taking no scary chances. Opportunities are passed; they are not virtuous, they are not proper.

I know this life well. I lived that life for a dozen years at least. Virtue and prudence makes you a good friend, but it doesn't get you dates. Or, it doesn't get you dates that you have to commit to. They're not right. He's a bit off. She's a flake. It's easy to become resigned then comfortable with that life.

It took me several years to unlearn the habit of the ease of the formula. It's scary to relearn that you have to reach out, not knowing if someone will reach back. But the only other reward is virtue.
posted by bonehead at 10:18 PM on February 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


Virtue is mostly praised by those who shunned it earlier in their lives. They don't know what it is to live a life entirely of virtue, they just want to avoid feeling the pain of regret. They really need to learn to let go of the past, instead of encouraging other people to avoid their pain by proxy. Sure, they have good intentions, but they are deliberately pointing people down a path that they have not taken themselves. They will always have those memories of the bad things they have done, their regret tinged by guilt at not feeling worse about those things.

It's better to regret the things you did, and not the things you didn't do. The past is gone. Forget it and move on.

For those who have been encouraged to live in a shell, Auntie Mame reminds us, "Live! Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! ".

Sit down, eat, drink, and be kind to each other.
posted by Xoebe at 10:30 PM on February 28, 2011 [24 favorites]


The faith of Judaism has contributed hugely to the general welfare of all mankind. And the tenets and traditions of Judaism are the primary reason that a people so frequently persecuted through history survive and exist in whole form today, rather than existing solely as a scattering of genes in a few individuals, remaining from a long-forgotten race. Personally, I think we're better off for it

I will play devil's advocate on this one. Realistically, there is no reason to suppose the fact (which I agree with) that Judaism has led to many useful things being preserved, was entirely dependant upon the preservation of Judaism. An idea has worth, regardless of its spiritual inspiration or cultural expression, and may be derived independently. And if the culture has baggage with it, the bad that it regards as inviolable as the good - is that not a hinderance to progress, to the valuable ideas that it expresses? There is a wisdom to accepting the past for what is is, however checkered it may be, and moving on, in the face of better information.
posted by Sparx at 10:31 PM on February 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


There is a wisdom to accepting the past for what is is, however checkered it may be, and moving on, in the face of better information.

See Reform Judaism (or any religion's reformation movement).

I feel sadness after reading Nice Jewish Girl's blog, because she does deserve more than the lonely life she's been living. One problem is she that she is not only living an Orthodox Jewish life, she is living that life within a community of other Orthodox Jews, which, as Astro Zombie pointed out, has ~1500 years of its own cruft and peculiar interpretation layered on top the 3000+ year textual edicts. If you're looking for love, that's a tough one-two punch to fade.

I sincerely hope she can reconcile her inner struggle and manage to reclaim some of her life. The journey of life is much better when shared with someone, regardless of the path.
posted by mosk at 10:47 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah. The Judaism + mating thing is kinda bizarre. I became agnostic a year after my Bar Mitzvah, and an atheist a few months after my mother died. I'm estranged from my family now, so there's no pressure coming from that direction. Yet still I identify as Jewish, and although I date both Jews and non-Jews, all things being equal, I'd probably choose a Jew over a non-Jew -- to the point that I've actually started going to Jewish events in my city, and have even considered going to services. The only thing that stops me is the fear that it would feel completely dirty and fraudulent, like I was profaning their holy space or something. But is it so wrong? Really? Is it? In NYC, I feel like it was pretty common to be an atheist Jew, but out here, I feel apostate.

Granted, my internal struggle is nothing compared to this poor woman's, but all the same, I feel like I understand at least a sliver of her pain.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:49 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


wow, my heart breaks for this woman - I have a few cousins that could have been the author of that piece and my heart breaks for all of them.

I would plead with all them to do the following:

- take the wig off
- comb your hair out
- get STD paperwork in order to prove you are free & clear
- have a friend (me, I volunteer) create and monitor a profile on OK Cupid
- get some coffee
- have some sex with a sensitive dude who is crazy infatuated with you (even though they don't know you)
- repeat the last few steps until...

...well, it's your story, you write the end.

god will be fine - just fine - really, I promise. please, please do this.
posted by victors at 11:03 PM on February 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


The issue with the most religious formulas is that they always land with you as the problem in the equation. Are you not happy being celibate? You must not love God enough. Are you attracted to people of the same sex against God's will? You are an abomination. And then, unlike other formulas, it can't be validated. God does not submit himself or his rules to rational examination. The faithful are told that they just aren't trying hard enough. God is a mysterious force that can never be comprehended.

In a way, I think this woman's story is representative of humanity's relationship with God. When we were young and naive, the pronouncements and promises gave us hope through emotions we didn't quite understand. It gave meaning to the short and brutish lives that were lived, to the tragedies we experienced. But like anything else we have studied as a group, we have kept redefining and reshaping God to match our discoveries. God isn't "in the sky." God now disapproves of slavery. Now God thinks men and women are equal. After so many centuries of this conversation, we have discovered that we have been talking to no one but ourselves. Just as she is realizing that no matter how hard she prays for guidance and strength, there seems to be no one at the other end of the line.

Some of us, like this woman, are angry that we have been cheated twice: out of the time we have spent in a make believe relationship with God, and out of the real relationships that could have provided genuine comfort. We are trying to reconcile the emptiness of our naked and vulnerable spiritual bodies with the promises that were made. Others have decided to change the message to match our modern wants, so God now wants you to exercise and get rich, and give this guy money on weekends.

I hope she makes it through without turning into a nihilist. If I had remained that faithful to an idea and been burned so badly, I don't know how I could recover faith in any system of ethics. Just imagine: you are at the lowest point of your life, and in a panic you run to your best friend's house. The light is on and you can see them in the window. So you run to the door, and start banging, pleading for help. There's no answer, so you bang on the window, you ring the door bell a hundred times. But no matter how loud your cries, or how sincerely you beg for communication -- for anything -- they never bother to respond. You wonder, why could they possibly be ignoring me? Did they lose their hearing in some sort of accident? Are they having some sort of breakdown too?

Suddenly, the weird hateful equation starts to make sense.
posted by notion at 11:08 PM on February 28, 2011 [43 favorites]


How innocent I was, how stupid, not to realize that no matter how "religious" a man may seem on the outside, no matter that every Friday night he sings "sheker hachen v'hevel hayofi," if you are not pretty enough nothing else matters, not really, not in dating.

The internalization of the fact that Orthodox people are every bit as superficial as everyone else has shaken my love for the community, and by extension for the laws that govern it.


---

That's it--that's what it is, I think. Her beliefs are an ancillary issue; many women share those beliefs and they are not alone and frustrated. The matter is that too many men cannot seem to get past any number of prehistoric survival anxieties. They care too much about youth, as though their potential mate cannot be expected to live past 30. They care too much about hip-to-waist ratios, as though their potential mate had a significant chance of dying during childbirth. They care too much about outward signs of fertility, as though their potential mate should be expected to birth the maximal number of children to insure survival. If this woman was "pretty enough" as she says, the rest wouldn't matter. Of course it's easier if you widen the dating pool, but even that's no guarantee.

And to be sure there are too often complementary survival anxieties attached to the other sex--the desire for a mate with stature, physical and pecuniary, as though a man must still be able to defend and provide and dominate to insure survival. From recent, condensed personal experience, it is worth noting that coming from the opposite end of the spectrum--relatively secular and liberal, male--when you find yourself doing everything your culture prescribes for social success and you don't see any results, you end up in exactly the same place: hurt and angry.

I hope I don't offend anyone with the generalizations I have made here about both sexes--I'm sure there are many exceptions; I am not an expert, and I can only surmise from my experience--but from my perspective, when one's romantic happiness depends on the rejection of reproductive instincts developed over centuries upon centuries and reinforced by a popular culture which celebrates the superficial and materialistic, regardless of subculture that happiness will be damned hard to find.

So good luck to all the lonely people, and this Nice Jewish Girl too; one hates like hell to see anyone with a lot of soul not having someone to share it with.
posted by millions at 11:48 PM on February 28, 2011 [25 favorites]


1500-year-old rabbis

Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbi out of my hat!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:56 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Afroblanco: "The only thing that stops me is the fear that it would feel completely dirty and fraudulent"

In my experience it's utterly normal for agnostic or atheist persons of Jewish cultural background to reintegrate aspects of faith into their lives after a certain age. It really took me aback when my first pal headed in that direction, but he wasn't the first and won't be the last. If you think about it, the ethnic identity is somewhat unique in that it's an ethnicity that can be nearly unmoored from geneaology, so an interest in ethnic community inevitably tends back to faith. It's natural and you shouldn't be afraid of it.

(I'm not Jewish at all but so many important people in my life have been and I hope will continue to be, fwiw. It's pretty clear my relationship to religion, faith, and community is radically different from what it is for you, my beloved friends, and all I can tell you is I adore you and want you to be happy. I'm probably gonna stay in the 'no sky wizard' camp, though.)
posted by mwhybark at 11:59 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Reading this is one of those moments that, pre-internet, I would have had to read in a book. This is truly best of the web. I am enriched, my view of the world broadened, my heart moved.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:13 AM on March 1, 2011 [16 favorites]


As I'm often fond of thinking "life is a piece of shit. Always beating you down." The upshot being that if you can find moments of happiness fuck anyone else who brings you down because of it. Recently I've been obsessing over the idea of having a chance to live my life again given everything I've learned at my answer to life, the universe, and everything age of 42 . Of course it won't happen, but somehow, if the universe were just, it would happen.

Also, I've known a couple of guys who remained virgins till at least their 30s (since last I was around them) and it has fucked them up. If you've had sex it probably strikes you as something that's ultimately not that big of a deal. If you haven't, and you're getting up there in age, then it does bad things to your mind as it did to these two guys.

Tying it all together, somehow, I hope she finds something because obsessing over what should have been sucks in too many ways to count.
posted by bfootdav at 12:33 AM on March 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


if you are not pretty enough nothing else matters, not really, not in dating.
Funny you highlight that as the "problem with men", millions, because after I read the passage I'm afraid my compassion was more than a little dented by two things, one which merely irritated me, and one that really pisses me off.

Because if you're going to pull a quote, let's pull what immediately preceeded it:
a like-minded man (who was also socially normal, intelligent and somewhat decent-looking, at least to me
Boy, I wonder how many "socially abnormal", "terrible looking (to me)" men she's written off over the years. Sorry, but don't run around pissing on men for making judgements about your looks when you're eliminating men on exactly the same grounds. Otherwise you're no different to beer-gut bedecked guys talking shit about women who don't measure up to some standard of feminine beauty they've pulled out of their butts.

The thing that really pissed me off, though, is this:
As I have said in the past, I do not think that being shomer negiah, or at least celibate, is a bad idea for teenagers and people in their early 20's [...] But what happens as one gets older is: As one's sexual frustration grows, it starts to weaken the threads that used to hold together "sex" and "specialness" in the mind. Sex becomes more and more of a simple primal need, like food or air, [...]. And you have to have sex, even if it is not with the man of your dreams, as long as he is not a sleazebucket.
This is... crap. It is arrogant, obnoxious crap. It is the crap of my contemporaries who leave their 30s deciding that compulsory millitary service isn't such a bad idea after all, for the young. It is the crap of Boomers who can't shut the fuck up about Woodstock while voting to incarcerate anyone who has a couple of plants in a closet for growing their own joints. It is the crap of the 20 year olds who dodged the draft for Vietnam who cheered on Iraq 30 years later.

How fucking dare she? How dare she presume to be superior to 20 year olds in matters of sex in relationships! Twenty year olds who are right now raising children, killing or being killed abroad for their country. Twenty year olds who will rush into a burning building or confront an armed robber. Twenty year olds who are adult enough for those things but she thinks need a condescending cossetting from someone who by her own admission chose a path that has fucked up a chunk of her adult life to the point where she's angry with her own God!

Pick me twenty year olds at random from the street. How many of them will screw up at sex and relationships so badly that by twenty they'll doubt the basis for their whole adult lives? One in ten? One in twenty? Don't you dare fucking presume superiority over those adults. Don't you fucking dare.
posted by rodgerd at 12:37 AM on March 1, 2011 [62 favorites]


I live in a predominantly Orthodox neighborhood. It has changed from the mixed community that it us to be. I own one of the three properties that are not owned by Orthodox families.

I recently was offered and indeed purchased weed (really good weed) from a group of Orthodox teens down the block. They were not wearing Orthodox clothing. In fact they pretty much explained to me that they were allowed to act like goyim for a while. Only a short while. Almost, it seemed to me, like Rumspringa in a Jewish way. The girl was not at all dressed in what one might call a modest way. In fact she was wearing a tank top with no bra. The male children were in boxer shorts and tank tops.

They said that while their parents didn't like it, they had nothing to say about it. They just got yelled at. While I spent some time on the porch with them, they were very careful to explain that they were serious about their Judaism. We spent time setting off fireworks, smoking bowls and discussing the finer points of the Torah as well as the concept of G-d and religion in general. We discussed the concept of Koshering meat and what it meant to be a Shabbos goy.

I had a fine time. Especially when the youngest spent a half hour trying to explain why even though being kosher isn't about food health anymore, it's still a one of the easiest mitzvahs.

Good times.
posted by Splunge at 12:47 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hey, rodgerd, I may just be missing it, but I'm really not seeing superiority or condescension in her writing on this ... or certainly not enough to merit your level of anger.

I read it much more as backpedaling than as endorsement. As in, "Yeah, maybe sometimes these rules still work. I mean, in some situations, they're not a bad idea. But here's a list of the specific ways in which they are a bad idea and have messed me up."

I do get what you're saying though, and I share your anger at the person you've described, I'm just not sure it's her.
posted by Myca at 12:49 AM on March 1, 2011 [15 favorites]


Myca: She seems to me to be making the argument that at 40 she has a need which is fundamentally differnet and more acute, and also more finely judged than that of a 20 year old, for whom she still prescribes chastity. So that is, yes, what I took away from it.
posted by rodgerd at 12:57 AM on March 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


It is the crap of Boomers who can't shut the fuck up about Woodstock while voting to incarcerate anyone who has a couple of plants in a closet for growing their own joints.

FWIW, surveys show that Boomers are *more* liberal on drug policy than subsequent generations. It's almost certainly your peers who are buying into all that WOD stuff. Possibly something to do with all that exposure to D.A.R.E. as kids?

/derail.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:59 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Myca: She seems to me to be making the argument that at 40 she has a need which is fundamentally differnet and more acute, and also more finely judged than that of a 20 year old, for whom she still prescribes chastity. So that is, yes, what I took away from it.

I don't see "it's not a bad idea" as a prescription. "It's not a bad idea" != "It's a good idea" != "It's what people should do"
posted by juv3nal at 1:12 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


rodgerd: Yeah, I can see that. I guess I just see her post as 95% concerned with the ways in which her lifelong belief system has fucked her up royally ... and I've got some sympathy for that, so I'm willing to cut her some slack, especially since admitting that to yourself is pretty hard, and doing it in public is doubly so.

I think that some of what it comes down to is that she found it easier to be celibate at 20 than she does at 40, and her experience of her sexuality is different at 40 than it was at 20. Certainly universalizing those observations is a bad thing, but I guess I think it's understandable.

When she was 20, she thought that the whole system might work out for her ... that the rewards she'd been promised in return for severely circumscribing her behavior would make it all worthwhile. As she's gotten older, the rewards have utterly failed to materialize, and it's left her thinking both that it's a pretty shitty deal if you don't get the goodies and, probably, that if you do, it's not that bad a deal.

Obviously, I disagree ... but this poor woman is just so fucking starved, like I said, I cut her some slack.
posted by Myca at 1:18 AM on March 1, 2011 [16 favorites]


Shomer Negiah, Donny, is the Jewish concept of not touching almost all members of the opposite sex. That means that I don't touch my brother, I don't touch my uncle, I don't fucking touch my nephew, I don't shake hands, I don't sit next to men I don't know, and I sure as shit don't fucking roll around on dates!

All kidding aside, I hope she finds some balance so that she doesn't have to be alone.
posted by bwg at 2:27 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Threeway Handshake: Fuck you God, for making people feel this way

Who would you like to blame for the non-religious people who feel exactly the same way? We answer scores of questions on Ask from people who are similarly lonely, physically isolated and socially and sexually un-partnered.

It is really sad (although I don't like that word; it implies pity and I do not pity her) that she feels this way, but it isn't a unique human condition. In her case, yes her religious choices have contributed to her circumstances but I don't think anyone without superpowers can say that if she'd never had her religious convictions, she'd be both sexually fulfilled and happier.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:39 AM on March 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is precisely what I hate about religion: That it is the most devout, dedicated and observant that get fucked the hardest by these milenia of lies built on top of bronze age lies.

A life wasted.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:02 AM on March 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


H.L Mencken was right.
posted by bardic at 3:17 AM on March 1, 2011


"A life wasted."

Not at all. She's a good writer and I imagine she does well in her work (she says she likes her job).

The problem is that the world's major religious traditions impart this poisonous, asinine belief system that women can only be happy in their functions as wives (i.e., objects to be owned by men) and baby-makers.

That an obviously intelligent woman has internalized such ridiculous, misogynistic bullshit is what's tragic here, but it sounds like she finally might be waking up. I sure hope so, because she deserves to be happy. Her religious faith has done nothing but make her miserable.

That's a feature of religion when it comes to women, not a bug.
posted by bardic at 3:24 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


MeTa.
posted by gingerest at 3:36 AM on March 1, 2011


Bardic, I think you're projecting: she doesn't express those views at all.

My impression, based onher earlier posts, is that being shomer negiah has been a sort of psychological shield for her.

If you read her early posts she says that she wasn't raised this way and that until the age of seventeen she didn't think about it. None the less, she didn't date or engage in physical contact with boys - she says she was one of the S.N. by default girls. She even speculates that So, maybe being S.N., when I was younger, was a way to say I don’t want to do sexual things because I’m too young or I’m not ready or I’m scared. A way to tell boys “We can date, but I won’t do anything physical with you until I know that you really love me and will stay with me, because you’ve married me.” Only instead of saying all that the words we used were I’m shomer negiah because that is an acceptable way of saying it in our culture ...

In other words, she wonders whether she was shomer negiah because she was avoiding physical intimacy, not avoiding physical intimacy because she was shomer negiah. I think she analysed her motives accurately, and I hope she can work through this.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:39 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


The problem is that the world's major religious traditions impart this poisonous, asinine belief system blah blah blah.

Yeah, uh, bullshit.

That's not what's going on here at all.

What is going on is that Orthodox Judaism, like the conservative branches of most of the other major world religions, Christianity included, has a radically different value set from contemporary liberal* culture. Where liberal culture emphasizes individual liberty, fulfillment, and actualization, traditional religious cultures actually view those things as neutral at best and selfish at worst. Instead, virtue is found in community and self-sacrifice, typically in having and raising children. That goes just as much for men as for women: in many traditional religious communities, single men and single women are equally socially useless.

Historically, a lot of these traditions had some function for single people to fulfill. In Roman Catholicism that was the monastic life, which is still an important part of Catholic spirituality, them bein' all extra holy on behalf of us poor sinners. Clearly, the concept has its problems, but it undeniably created a socially acceptable place for someone to be single their entire life. Other cultures, like Judaism, had highly developed means for getting people married and thus bringing them into the community. Marriage was arranged, and for all that that rubs modern liberals the wrong way, when your values are the same as those in your religious community, it works really damned well for everyone involved. Knowing where you fit, having a place to belong, one valued and praised by your community, isn't something to be easily dismissed.

But a lot of that has been lost. Religious values in most conservative traditions haven't changed all that much, but the social mechanisms for getting people there have all but completely eroded. And it's not just in religious traditions either: Even people in entirely secular paradigms are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve their concept of relationship success. Look at the AskMes we get every week: people who want a certain kind of relationship are finding that there are absolutely zero social mechanisms for finding it, and the only ways anyone knows of meeting people are completely inimical to any kind of traditional relationship. Online dating? Are you kidding me?

In essence, having any kind of preconceived idea about what constitutes the good life without some community solution for achieving it is a recipe for heartbreak a lot of the time, regardless of whether or not you are religious. Religious people simply tend to have a more articulated version of the good life than many others--it's kind of handed to you, yes?--so that's a lot easier for them and others to see.

I have a lot of sympathy for this woman. I'm about ten years younger than her, and I've similarly played by the rules of my tradition and have absolutely nothing to show for it as far as finding a mate goes. I suppose, given my gender, that I technically have less time pressure than she does--at this point it's vanishingly unlikely that she's ever going to have kids--but that doesn't help me very much now. Nor does living in what amounts to a godforsaken wasteland as far as dating opportunities go. At this point I wouldn't even know how to meet someone in my tradition. So her feelings of being basically stuck resonate pretty strongly.

*And by "liberal" here I mean "post-Enlightenment". Modern political/social Liberals and Conservatives are pretty much two sides of a coin there. They like different things, but they're both basically about individual fulfillment and have a pretty strong aversion to social hierarchies.
posted by valkyryn at 3:47 AM on March 1, 2011 [48 favorites]


Not at all. She's a good writer and I imagine she does well in her work (she says she likes her job).

The problem is that the world's major religious traditions impart this poisonous, asinine belief system that women can only be happy in their functions as wives (i.e., objects to be owned by men) and baby-makers.

That an obviously intelligent woman has internalized such ridiculous, misogynistic bullshit is what's tragic here, but it sounds like she finally might be waking up. I sure hope so, because she deserves to be happy. Her religious faith has done nothing but make her miserable.

That's a feature of religion when it comes to women, not a bug.
posted by bardic at 12:24 PM on March 1 [+] [!]


You are wrong. This woman wanted a husband, children, the warmth and closeness and sharing that comes with the type of relationship that she was promised, and then denied, by fairytales. Now she is 40. As time passes, pregnancy becomes increasingly complicated. And she is not trying to get pregnant now. She would still have to find a marriage-worthy man, and she is having trouble even thinking how to express that she is now open to more casual relationships. You should respect this woman's pain, and more, her desire for the company of men, regardless of how much of a feature of religion you think her misery is.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:54 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


"You should respect this woman's pain"

I do, absolutely. Misogynistic belief structures (which Valkryn so preciously and euphemistically labels as "pre-Modern") have failed this woman terribly. She has internalized an inherently paternalistic viewpoint of her own potential and self-worth -- that she is worthless without a husband or children, or even a boyfriend for that matter.

That's fucked up, and the sooner all forms of organized religion die off the better. But let's start with the ultra-conservative ones first, the ones that truly hate women. (And by extension, convince men that they have a right to treat women like pieces of furniture at best.)

"Even people in entirely secular paradigms are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve their concept of relationship success."

Of course they are. Finding love is really hard to do. Doing so with the ass-backwards prejudices of a pack of polygamous misogynists from thousands of years ago much more so.
posted by bardic at 4:29 AM on March 1, 2011 [12 favorites]


Fuck you God-botherers, for making people feel this way.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 5:09 AM on March 1


FT... etc. There is no such thing as "God". :-)
posted by Decani at 4:50 AM on March 1, 2011


It isn't just a question of misogyny, bardic. There are many men who aren't well-served by traditional belief systems and moralities, either – as grassdissolved said earlier, there is a certain mold for the people who are paired off effectively within these systems. If you do not fit into that mold, you are going to have a rough time of it, no matter where you fall on the gender spectrum.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:55 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


A broken tag. Crap.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:56 AM on March 1, 2011


Thanks for posting. I used to follow her blog and when she disappeared I hoped against hope it was because she had met someone.

She describes herself as physically unattractive many times over the course of her posts. I wonder if it's true (and if so, if it's fixable, as most if not all unattractiveness issues are). But it shouldn't really matter - certainly Orthodox Jews get married who are no picnic physically. So there has to be more to it. But I also wonder what other strictures she adheres to are also contributing to the problem.

There's another blog I follow which I love, where a young woman (low to mid 20's at most) is steadily making her way through the dating world, and not finding yet. And there is no question that she is 'shomer negiya by default' and that it works for her. But she would achingly write about not finding a guy who could appreciate her, while steadfastly refusing to do the Orthodox version of internet dating, because it just isn't done to hook up without a shadchan (matchmaker) to investigate and approve the boy's family with her parents. And she is only now, years later, finally sounding like she is maybe putting together an online profile for one of the sites. I am in no way saying that she will end up in the same situation as the writer of the shomer negiya blog (G-d forbid)(if saying that helps anything). But you can see how the system holds you inside of it, because if you make any choice that puts you outside the system, that then takes away your option of being with people fully within the system who would not agree with that choice. By having an online profile, she could automatically be labeled 'too modern' for many of the men she's actually interested in. It's a double-edged sword.

Orthodox Judaism is not all about sexually controlling women and putting them in their place. It's about sexually controlling everyone, and keeping everyone in their places, with the purpose of creating families. But without family, without a spouse, it can be a very painful religion - so many of the holidays and observances are centered around family and children, that to be without them genuinely lessens the joy. This is true for unmarried men and women, anyone divorced, as well as infertile couples. It's not that you're incomplete as a woman without a family - it's that you are incomplete as a Jew. It's actually considered worse for a man to be without children than a woman, religiously (the Torah acknowledges infertility in women but doesn't seem to in men) - but societally it's very difficult for both. And that's not because having a family is a horrible invisible-sky-wizard-and-bearded-misogynists thing, but because - as anyone knows who is single (not by choice) and has married friends who are starting to have families around them - once people get into that groove, it becomes all-important to them and if you can't relate, then you're the odd one out. Especially when there isn't a comparable community of singles your age you can hang out with as an alternative. The writer isn't afraid of sex or of losing her virginity - she is afraid of burning that bridge and not being able to return to the chance of still having it all - a husband, a family (even if the children aren't hers biologically), the sense of being fully vested in the community. I don't have any sense whatsoever that Orthodoxy is her problem, or that leaving it would solve anything - but it caused her problem, and leaves her hanging.

She wants what she says she wants - love, affection, a physical relationship. That doesn't mean she doesn't want all the other things. Only that at this point she's willing to settle, if that's all she can get. I just wonder whether this is something a therapist can help better than an OK Cupid or Craigslist posting - when you're down on yourself and your inherent worth (as she seems to be, at least looks-wise), the secular dating world isn't any kinder.
posted by Mchelly at 4:56 AM on March 1, 2011 [17 favorites]


How is this different than the thinking of extreme islam?

I get that she is doing it to herself when it is not a social norm - as opposed to the women of the pan-arab/asian world who either never knew differently or are forced to - however many of them (first hand knowledge) argue that they wouldn't have it any other way. Even when the menfolk aren't around to listen.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 4:59 AM on March 1, 2011


She has internalized an inherently paternalistic viewpoint of her own potential and self-worth -- that she is worthless without a husband or children, or even a boyfriend for that matter.

Either that or she just wants a husband and children. Or do you think that everyone who wants children has internalized a paternalistic viewpoint?
posted by creasy boy at 5:09 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks for posting this, I had no idea about this woman or her problems, and it's the chance for an insight into things like this that I keep coming back to the blue.
posted by ciderwoman at 5:18 AM on March 1, 2011


once people get into that groove, it becomes all-important to them and if you can't relate, then you're the odd one out. -Mchelly

Good point. Speaking from her experience as a disappointed virgin Mormon, writer Nicole Hardy says, "[T]here is no place in that community for a single woman who doesn’t want children."
posted by zinzin at 5:24 AM on March 1, 2011


The notion that there exists a script which, if followed, will guarantee success in any given enterprise, tends to cause misery when people follow the formula and find that real life is generally unreliable.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:40 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not so very long ago, I was pretty frum myself. There's a lot of peace and certainty that comes with the structure. The feeling that if you only follow the rules and do the right things, the community will take care of you. The process will work. It's possible to be genuinely happy in it, particularly if you're the sort of person that likes to have a plan. Because in a lot of ways, you can start feeling like just doing the little things are part of some larger plan. When you go to shul or light the shabbos candles, it feels like you're making the right step for your future. If you do these things, the rest will take care of itself.

Thankfully, there were lots of reasons that it was never going to be a viable plan for me. I just don't fit that mold, and it was fairly obviously false security. It didn't take me long at all to "wake up," but it was still very painful. I wasn't a believer in the modern sense of the word. But I did believe in the community part of Judaism. (I still do, but it's much more complicated now.) I can't imagine how much more painful and shattering it would be to come to my senses (so to speak) decades later. To find out that the plan didn't work. That all those little things I was doing that I thought were saving against the future had come to nothing. It's like you've been putting away in your 401(k) for your entire life, and when you go to cash out you find out it's all been turned into monopoly money.

The plan is great when it works. Problem is, it doesn't work for everyone and the people it fails, it fails spectacularly. It's given no tools for formulating an alternate plan, so you're just out in the cold. I'm so sorry that anyone ends up where this woman is, and I am so grateful that I am not.
posted by stoneweaver at 5:40 AM on March 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


victors: "- have some sex with a sensitive dude who is crazy infatuated with you (even though they don't know you)"

There's a strong implication here that the subject of the OP should be advised to casually sleep with someone who believes that something serious will develop, then not contact them again. In the future, could we instead suggest that relationships of all types should be between people who jointly consent to their level of seriousness?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:52 AM on March 1, 2011


My heart breaks for this women, for many reasons. Many of them have already been well ellucidated in this thread, but here's one more:

How innocent I was, how stupid, not to realize that no matter how "religious" a man may seem on the outside, no matter that every Friday night he sings "sheker hachen v'hevel hayofi," if you are not pretty enough nothing else matters, not really, not in dating.

This is not a realization that anyone (man or woman) should have about the opposite sex at the age of 40. They should have that realization at the age of 20. And after that the understanding of relations between genders just gets more complex and rich.

I saw sex exactly that way, as something incredibly intimate that one should never, ever do with a person who has not fully committed to you

This is also the thought of a teenager. Yes sex is special, its not just sneezing. But its also a common and human activity. We do it for all sorts of reasons, and angels don't sing every single time, and thats fine. A lot of people have sex because its what they do right before going to bed. "Its Monday, we both have a tough week in front of us, and we've expressed our love for each other, gotten some weight off our shoulders, and thats perfectly fine, good night." This is part of an ordinary, healthy, adult sex life. This woman, by adopting her beliefs, has crippled a part of herself, and thus her understanding of sexuality is underdeveloped by 20 years. Granted she is coming around now, but she is 40, and that she is somehow starting to realize these things without ever having had a sex life, just seems brutally difficult.

I can imagine what will happen when she does find a man - she probably rarely if ever masturbates, does not know her body or a man's body. For a grown woman to be in such a state, this is the emotional equivelant of female circumcision.
posted by tempythethird at 5:58 AM on March 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


For a grown woman to be in such a state, this is the emotional equivelant of female circumcision.

....But....this is a learning process that everyone goes through, the putting-of-sex-into-perspective. The only difference between her and...well, me, is that she is doing this process at 40, and I did it at....well, 25.

But even there -- I was also a late-ish bloomer, and I was still waiting to do things at 20 that a lot of people I knew did at 16. Or even 15 or 14. And part of that was actually about a religious instruction -- Catholic, in my sense, rather than Jewish -- but part of it was also just plain dumb luck (shortly after getting into college, I realized that the guys I went to high school with were pretty much massive idiots, to a man, and that the whole reason none of them looked at me was because I was freaking them all out rather than my being ugly or anything). I didn't have the chance to test what I believed about sex and dating -- and, subsequently, change it -- until I was 19 or 20.

Sometimes you are indeed given a teaching about religion that can set a limit on you -- but life then gives you chances to test that limit, and change it. And sometimes, that test doesn't come along for a long time. And that is not solely the fault of the religion.

For my part, I've processed the religious statement I heard in such a way that I've found what works for me there are some aspects of my sexual self that I'm really private about, and even for casual things I'm pretty damn choosy, and I can trace that directly to what I heard about sex in my Sunday School class when I was twelve. The rest of my life has taught me what to alter about what I was taught ("being married" is no longer my benchmark for "when to say yes", in other words). But I had to have the chance TO test those limits in order to get to that point. And it just didn't come along until college. For her, it seems to not have come along until...later.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:31 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, I used to read this blog! I'm sad for the update. IIRC she moved to Israel? Or was thinking about it? I'll have to go back and check. I'm sure that isn't helping her find someone to have sex with, given she'll only be seeing fellow Orthodox men in her community.

she probably rarely if ever masturbates

You know, and again this is from long-ago memory, I think I remember her posting that she did. But I might be making that up. It would be a weird thing for me to remember.
posted by gaspode at 6:36 AM on March 1, 2011


The sad thing about the post is that it seems that she is equating sex with happiness. Happiness is a state of mind not a collection of badges.
posted by storybored at 6:52 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a learning process that everyone goes through, the putting-of-sex-into-perspective

True enough, but I would say that the sooner this happens, the better. Sex will always be somewhat fraught, but it does become "normalized" after a certain point, when, to coin a phrase, neuroses-free sexy-times may commence.

Everyone develops at different rates (I'm a late bloomer too), but I would think that anyone who fails to get to this point by their late 20s/early 30s would be an extreme outlier. If this woman had it in her to reach the point by her late 20s even, but did not because of her religion, then as far as I'm concerned, her religion robbed her of decades of something wonderful.
posted by tempythethird at 6:54 AM on March 1, 2011


Everyone develops at different rates (I'm a late bloomer too), but I would think that anyone who fails to get to this point by their late 20s/early 30s would be an extreme outlier. If this woman had it in her to reach the point by her late 20s even, but did not because of her religion, then as far as I'm concerned, her religion robbed her of decades of something wonderful.

But can you say that it was because of her religion, entirely? That was my point, that sometimes it isn't all the religion, but a combination of religion and "crap luck meeting people". I mean, hell, we all go through phases of not meeting enough potential partners, for whatever reason -- last year, I think I had one date, and other than that I was going through a plain dumb-luck streak of not meeting people. Short of making a pass at the weird guy who sat in front of my local bodega singing "Mairzy Doats" every day, I wasn't getting the opportunity to do anything about sex, and that wasn't anyone's fault, it's just the way things were shaking down.

Now -- if a similar streak of "dumb bad luck" is happening to someone right at the beginning of their sexual awareness, can you really say that it's entirely the fault of their religion that is "suppressing their development"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:24 AM on March 1, 2011


I do, absolutely. Misogynistic belief structures (which Valkryn so preciously and euphemistically labels as "pre-Modern") have failed this woman terribly. She has internalized an inherently paternalistic viewpoint of her own potential and self-worth -- that she is worthless without a husband or children, or even a boyfriend for that matter.


It is not that her life is wasted for not fulfilling someone else's view of female worthiness based on attachment to men. It is that attachment to men, with all its richness, is what she said she wanted. So I believe her, I believe that is what she wanted, at the same time that I find her approach to the problem as terribly ill-advised.

It may be that she has internalized the old-school paternalistic views and that her yearning for a husband is just evidence of her judaism-sculpted mind. If that is so, then her path to self-enlightenment will certainly be longer, but we can't follow that path for her.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 7:24 AM on March 1, 2011


Hang on, just thought of a better way of expressing my point --

Finding someone that makes you feel safe enough to explore your sexuality is pretty damn vital. And if you just plain don't meet someone that makes you feel that safe, is that anyone's fault, or just plain dumb luck?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:26 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wish there was some way I could tell her that having the sex doesn't make any difference (ok, maybe once or twice). I'm exactly her age, have had a reasonable amount of sex in my youth, and yet am just as lonely, desperate, and miserable as she is.
posted by Melismata at 7:27 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


She has internalized an inherently paternalistic viewpoint of her own potential and self-worth -- that she is worthless without a husband or children, or even a boyfriend for that matter.

I was raised in feminist 1970s Cambridge, Massachusetts, and constantly told from age 8 or so that I didn't need a man to be happy, that they were all rapists who kept women from getting the vote, etc. etc.. Yet there are nights when I crave a man's hug so badly that I cry. What we need inside cannot be defined what society structures try to tell us, rightly or wrongly.
posted by Melismata at 7:34 AM on March 1, 2011 [16 favorites]


The matter is that too many men cannot seem to get past any number of prehistoric survival anxieties. They care too much about youth, as though their potential mate cannot be expected to live past 30. They care too much about hip-to-waist ratios, as though their potential mate had a significant chance of dying during childbirth. They care too much about outward signs of fertility, as though their potential mate should be expected to birth the maximal number of children to insure survival.

I bet they store energy as bodyfat, too, as though there's going to be a famine coming. Those stupid assholes.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 7:40 AM on March 1, 2011 [19 favorites]


It's good that she's now open to some sort of love and affection, even if it is outside marriage.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:43 AM on March 1, 2011


I grew up Orthodox and still have friends and family in that community with those beliefs. There are two aspects to this story: the sex thing, and still being single at 40.

On the sex thing, I think it's a damn shame -- a tragedy even -- to voluntarily abstain for no good reason. Life is too damn short.

There's all kinds of nonsense that is taught to young Orthodox Jews to prevent them from having sex, and it actually works relatively effectively. Far from 100% compliance, of course, but there are a ton of Orthodox Jews who really do wait until at least their twenties, and considering how many get married in their EARLY twenties, many are making it until at least engagement if not marriage. It also creates the perverse incentive to rush into marriage so you can just have sex already.

On the still being single thing, that's a whole story unto itself. Orthodox people and institutions are constantly wringing their hands over what they call the shidduch crisis. (A "shidduch" is a match by a matchmaker or family/friends, although it's often not that formal, especially in modern Orthodox circles.) The crisis is that people who are over 23 or so are still single! I mean they seriously worry about 25-year-old women who aren't married yet. (Obviously, men can marry younger women but women rarely marry younger men.) Also, since so many people are getting married so young, there has to be some kind of reason that someone in their 30s or 40s isn't married yet. If you're in your 40s and looking, there just isn't that pool of people who have just not settled down yet. There's a pool of divorced and widowed people, who often have 3-5 kids, and a pool of people who are pretty "off." (Significant Asperger's, etc.) If you're picky at that age and/or don't want to take on children, you're kind of out of luck.

The cause of the problem is trivial to diagnose: they are working hard to prevent the "natural" methods of pairing up -- coed fraternization, touching, sexual experimentation and then sex -- while at the same time have moved away from "Hey, you and you are getting married in three months." So for the time being, there's this bizarre hybrid of modern dating and ancient matchmaking. You get "set up" by friends or family, you go on these overly formal "dates", and after the third date or so, you make up your mind. To get married or not. The "dates" are without touching and kissing and the people don't know each other, so it can seem (I'm told) more like a job interview.

Ironically, because decisions are made so fast and with so little getting to know the person, "shallow" criteria like looks are even more important. See, in the natural world, you can meet someone who isn't on-paper gorgeous, but you are a little attracted, or else you get to know them and they become attractive, and you kiss and then you slowly start doing more, and before you know it, you're totally infatuated. In the frum world, you can't do that. So instead, you just judge people based on first impressions. And because it's so businesslike and there are so many singles (when you're young) the mentality is just like "Oh, I think I want someone prettier/richer/from a better family/who doesn't have a sibling who is mentally ill/whose parents are Orthodox. Next!"

It's all caused by a one-size-fits-all belief structure that works pretty well for those who fit in and like it, but makes life hell for everybody else. See that's the thing about religious dogma -- it doesn't take into account reality. Gay? What's that? Every man must be paired with a woman. A woman who doesn't want children or to get married in her 20s? Must be something wrong with her. Etc.
posted by callmejay at 7:44 AM on March 1, 2011 [30 favorites]


That's exactly what I was getting at, so it's wonderful to hear from someone inside the tradition able to provide more detail.
posted by valkyryn at 7:54 AM on March 1, 2011


if you are not pretty enough nothing else matters, not really, not in dating.

Nothing else in the post matters. Not the religion, not God, not the reliance on values or rules, and not the gender (mostly, more on that later). Everyone that's focusing on those things is off-base. As several people have pointed out, there are people who are liberal, or secular, or male, or have no problem with sex or touching others under any circumstances, or any combination of things that are the exact opposite of this woman's position. And they still have all sorts of problems that are similar to this woman's. If this woman behaved in exactly the same ways in the exact same belief structure, but she was hot, this blog would not exist, because she would have had sex by now. It's not the Orthodoxy or the religion getting in her way.

The odds of getting sex, in any form, under any circumstances, are correlated with appearance.

This woman's issues and feelings are similar to those that give rise to Nice Guy syndrome.
"I'm a good person, I did all the right things, I treated persons of the opposite sex 'The Right Way;' therefore, I deserve the good things in life, which includes sex with someone I don't have to pay."

This is an appealing thought, but it's unrealistic. Appearance matters to sex.

I don't care what religion or social mores you raise Heidi Klum or Brad Pitt with, and how orthodox or heretical they ended up in relation to that social structure. Those two were getting laid at some time in their lives if they wanted it. Show me a hot person who really wanted to have sex but just couldn't get there, despite all their efforts. You can't.

Is this fair? Probably not. We like to believe good people should get the good things in life. But this is just as much part of the just-world fallacy as believing the poor deserve to be where they are, rather than recognizing that the natural lottery has a lot to do with it.

It is true, though, that men have an easier time in this, because its not just appearance that makes them sexually attractive. Power, money, patriarchy definitely tilt the odds in the uglier man's favor. That's an unfairness that can and ought to be addressed. But by and large, there aren't as many of those people running around as you think, and in terms getting sex for the average person, I think that degree of inequality doesn't really matter (it of course matters for lots of other things that are more important, like abortion laws and such).

If you want to have sex, there are lots of things you can do to improve your odds. Even if you're ugly, there's still a lot of options. Change your clothes, your grooming habits, the shape of your body through diet and exercise and possibly surgery. She can stop dressing like a frum girl and acting like a frum girl and have the body and wardrobe of someone more sexually attractive to the general hetero male population. If she's unwilling to do these things, or she doesn't want to have sex with the kind of people that will make advances based on those results, that's fine. But the trade off is she doesn't get laid.
posted by shen1138 at 8:00 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


She can stop dressing like a frum girl and acting like a frum girl and have the body and wardrobe of someone more sexually attractive to the general hetero male population. If she's unwilling to do these things, or she doesn't want to have sex with the kind of people that will make advances based on those results, that's fine. But the trade off is she doesn't get laid.

*Stares*

....Wow. I didn't know there was a bizarro-world version of "if she was dressed like that clearly she wanted to have sex, so she was asking to be raped."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I didn't know there was a bizarro-world version of "if she was dressed like that clearly she wanted to have sex, so she was asking to be raped."

Who was talking about rape? Don't go there, that wasn't his point at all. She's dressing like a member of a small religious group that has strict rules about sex outside marriage. Part of the reason they do it is to set themselves aside from the rest of the world. If she doesn't want to follow the rules of that group anymore, if she wants to be pursued sexually, changing the way she dresses might help.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:09 AM on March 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


but there are a ton of Orthodox Jews who really do wait until at least their twenties,
man i hope i'm not starting a terrible derail; mods, delete at will

The age of consent is eighteen to twenty in a lot of places. In those places, sensible responsible people will tend to wait until their twenties to have sex, just to avoid potential legal complications. I think that's fine. callmejay seems to be implying do correct me if I'm misreading you! that it's a damn shame to let such petty issues of social convention stop you from having sex. Abstaining because it's socially inconvenient doesn't strike me as much different from abstaining because it breaks the law--the lawbreaking in question being, for a lot of people, more important than jaywalking but less than driving without a license.

The notion that there's something wrong with celibacy if your reasons for being celibate don't fulfill criteria x,y,z is problematic in a lot of ways.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:09 AM on March 1, 2011


If she doesn't want to follow the rules of that group anymore, if she wants to be pursued sexually, changing the way she dresses might help.

The final comment was more what I was reacting to -- "if she doesn't change the way she dresses, okay, but the tradeoff is she doesn't get laid." It's not necessarily a zero-sum game like that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:13 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not really. No considerate man will sexually approach a woman that is going out of her way to express in obvious ways that she does not wish to be approached in that way.

Which leaves the assholes.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 8:24 AM on March 1, 2011


No considerate man will sexually approach a woman that is going out of her way to express in obvious ways that she does not wish to be approached in that way.

But "how you dress" doesn't necessarily have to be "an obvious way to express you do not want to be approached."

We get a ton of AskMes about how to dress, and lots of people comment that an air of confidence goes further than the specific clothes you wear. Are those people all lying?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:28 AM on March 1, 2011


When I think about the balance between costs and benefits of religion, I often fail to consider cases like hers. When a persons emotional life is stunted and rendered painful by the twisted dicta of fundamentalist religions, I lay this at the feet of all religions, right along with holy wars, inquisitions, and pedophilic holy men.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:34 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Find me one of those questions that is talking about someone whose clothes are being specifically dictated by their religious group. I don't know that we've ever had one of those. I think the advice would be somewhat similar but definitely different, if we're talking about someone wanting both to dress that way and be approached by the "general population".
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:35 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


if you are not pretty enough nothing else matters, not really, not in dating.

That line struck me as well, only I'm not sure how to read it. My first take is that it says mainly how she feels about herself--that is, she experiences herself as undesirable and concretizes it as a matter of beauty. In addition, her looks may indeed be an expression of that feeling. I happen to know (don't ask me how) that there's a whole segment of the blogosphere made up of the frum & formerly frum and those somewhere in between that are hashing out these issues over the internet (and also meeting each other.) My bias (I admit to one) is that her issue isn't really the manifest and ultimately has to do with how she feels about herself.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:39 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


We get a ton of AskMes about how to dress, and lots of people comment that an air of confidence goes further than the specific clothes you wear. Are those people all lying?

Dressing frum is as obvious a social marker as you are ever going to get that someone actively, expressly adheres to a certain set of rules.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:41 AM on March 1, 2011


Appearance matters to sex.

When I was young, I believed this. (I'm taking "appearance" to mean beauty, here.) Now I realize that sexual attractiveness has more to do with self-confidence, attitude, grooming, and personality. I've known some very physically attractive people who do not stir the loins, and some objectively homely people who do. You see it in celebrities, too. Hotness in celebrities has as much to the packaging and personality as any inborn physical qualities. That's not to say that being physically repulsive can be easily overcome by other factors, but really, all you need is a fairly average face and figure, and those other factors determine hot or not.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:44 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


But "how you dress" doesn't necessarily have to be "an obvious way to express you do not want to be approached."

It is how this lady dressed. We are still talking about this lady, right? From what I understood, she dressed in a traditional jewish way that is associated with a group that practices abstinence before marriage.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 8:46 AM on March 1, 2011


Dressing frum is as obvious a social marker as you are ever going to get that someone actively, expressly adheres to a certain set of rules.

Yes, and not only that, but frum dressing is explicitly designed to be unsexy.

The notion that there's something wrong with celibacy if your reasons for being celibate don't fulfill criteria x,y,z is problematic in a lot of ways.

I'm not saying it's immoral, just a shame. Like refusing to try sushi because you're squeamish, only much, much more so. I don't see a problem with waiting until your very early twenties for some people, but get much beyond that and you've kind of missed out on the whole experimentation phase for our culture. Then you've missed out on a couple of years of potential sex AND you're into this awkward place where the dating pool is full of sexually experienced people and you're a virgin. It was a real issue for some of my friends who left Orthodoxy around that age.
posted by callmejay at 8:49 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


The final comment was more what I was reacting to -- "if she doesn't change the way she dresses, okay, but the tradeoff is she doesn't get laid." It's not necessarily a zero-sum game like that.

Given your reaction, I'm sure I worded this poorly, and didn't mean to say that she has to dress like such and such or she gets no sex. I surely should have clarified that there's a sliding scale here. I'm not exactly sure what frum dress is but I've seen plenty of Orthodox Jews before, and I don't think I'm wrong to say that the overwhelming majority of non-Orthodox Jews would take her clothing as a sign that there's no opportunity for a sexual relationship.

I think there's certainly clothing that people can wear that indicate their relative desire to be attractive or unattractive, and that this is a sliding scale. My partner is very deliberate in this, she routinely reminds me that her wardrobe has been expressly chose in part to de-emphasize her physical appearance (baggy sweaters, no skirts that are not part of a business suit, etc). The same can happen for men, and in many cases, because "clothes make the man," this often becomes more important for them. If you're shabbily dressed in a room full of well-coiffed men, you're going to be less attractive and less likely to have sex.

I agree that confidence is an important feature of how you display your appearance. If you're wearing a perfect bespoke suit but you can't look at someone in the eye when you talk, this is going to be a barrier. If you're wearing just sweat pants, but you're incredibly charismatic, then you can probably do ok. But I don't think it's wrong to suggest that, if your face is unappealing, changing your clothes can improve your odds. And we know that for Nice Jewish Girl, what she's currently doing isn't working. I'm really not trying to suggest that she dress in a way that gets her raped.
posted by shen1138 at 8:49 AM on March 1, 2011


I think arguing about dress takes the issue out of context. Any non-conformity will cost her the community which is ironically suffocating her spirit.

As a not-Jewish woman, I have developed close relationships to a few Jewish traditional men to recognize that they'd like to step outside their social constraints, but the cost is too frightening. It takes some serious consideration of this culture to fully appreciate their dilemma.

For my part, I am grateful to have had the transient option of being separated from my fundamentalist Christian background and headed out to Berkeley. I remember how my Baptist prayer group prayed for me. It's been downhill from there. ;)
posted by effluvia at 8:58 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


if you are not pretty enough nothing else matters, not really, not in dating.

Being conventionally attractive helps, but it's not enough on its own. You need a pool of available partners with a minimally shared set of sexual mores and customs. You need to experience gradual but progressively more intimate interactions.

Even if you are not conventionally attractive, you can still find someone who digs you, but your pool of available partners will be smaller. If you stay cooped up at home all the time or even live in a very small community, your pool will likewise be smaller, regardless of what you look like.

transient option of being separated from my fundamentalist Christian background and headed out to Berkeley.

The lucky will be born into their Vonnegut karass and experience minimal angst. The less lucky will recognize early that their karass lies elsewhere and find it while they're still young and adaptable, perhaps realizing during high school or college and finding it by moving to the big city. The least lucky will never find theirs.
posted by zinzin at 9:05 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The age of consent is eighteen to twenty in a lot of places.

Actually, there isn't a single state in the Union with an age of consent higher than eighteen, and most of the population lives in a state where it's sixteen. Contrast that with the fourteen-to-sixteen pattern in Europe.
posted by valkyryn at 9:14 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Given your reaction, I'm sure I worded this poorly, and didn't mean to say that she has to dress like such and such or she gets no sex. I surely should have clarified that there's a sliding scale here.

I also took a kind of extreme-end reaction on my end, as well. My apologies.

However, I seem to have inadvertently raised the issue of "but frum dressing is expressly designed to be unsexy" (I admit I'm paraphrasing here), and to that I will disagree. It's possible to dress both modestly and attractively, after all. I always heard that frum was more about a modesty standard -- skirt length, neckline length, etc. -- than it was about "sexiness", anyway. And for some women -- and I'm becoming one -- a certain degree of modesty in dress just plain feels sexier than anything mini or slit. It's hard to feel sexy when you're afraid to move because you don't want to flash the whole damn world.

Frum is about modesty, not "unsexiness." And modesty -- leaving some things to the imagination -- can be alluring.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:25 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


> victors: "- have some sex with a sensitive dude who is crazy infatuated with you (even though they don't know you)"

There's a strong implication here that the subject of the OP should be advised to casually sleep with someone who believes that something serious will develop, then not contact them again. In the future, could we instead suggest that relationships of all types should be between people who jointly consent to their level of seriousness?


I'm not implying any such thing, that sounds like a lot of projection to me.

Meanwhile, fear of heartbreak is just another reason to stay inside and avoid living. I would suggest anybody entering any relationship at any level be prepared for the possibility that their potential partner is an asshole. It happens. This woman needs to get out there and start living a romantically adventurous life, that means being responsible for her own actions, assuming her partners are doing same but it also means taking chances and that means messing up occasionally.
posted by victors at 9:45 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


valkyryn, I was thinking of Japan when I wrote that. Anyway, the specific numbers aren't really relevant to my argument and in hindsight I shouldn't have used them.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:53 AM on March 1, 2011


Frum is about modesty, not "unsexiness." And modesty -- leaving some things to the imagination -- can be alluring.

I went to a frum wedding last weekend which had hundreds of guests. There wasn't anything alluring about the way any of the frum women dressed. Frum dress is not about "unsexiness" per se, but any sort of sexiness would be anathema.

———

I feel for this poor woman, I really do. After reading her last blog post, however, it seemed like she was still judging those who have sex in circumstances other than her own. Part of this is the younger people, as addressed by rodgerd. But what stuck out for me is her fear of men who want to have sex, the "sleazebuckets," the fear of becoming "a target for sleazy" and "oily people" if she opens up. This fear was probably ingrained into her from an early age, but it will be her biggest liability in finding love or sex after she stops hewing to the shomer negiah principles. The fear may, perhaps, be the reason that she was able to stay with those principles long after many would have abandoned them.
posted by grouse at 9:55 AM on March 1, 2011


I'm really not trying to suggest that she dress in a way that gets her raped.

Ack, part of the point I think whoever made it was trying to make is that there is no "way to dress that gets you raped." There are people who use what someone is wearing and casts that as an excuse.
posted by Pax at 9:55 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


> if you are not pretty enough nothing else matters, not really, not in dating.

Funny you highlight that as the "problem with men", millions, because after I read the passage I'm afraid my compassion was more than a little dented by two things, one which merely irritated me, and one that really pisses me off.

Because if you're going to pull a quote, let's pull what immediately preceeded it:

> a like-minded man (who was also socially normal, intelligent and somewhat decent-looking, at least to me.


I'm a just a tiny bit uncomfortable with your use of quotes in regards to what I highlight: I never used those words, and I was very careful with the words I chose, going so far as to be explicit about the fact that there are obviously many exceptions as well as limits to my observation. I imagine you were just being practical in trying to epitomize my statement, but I feel like you have discarded some nuance in order to make your point. Perhaps the difference is subtle, but it matters to me. Nevertheless, I appreciate what you say after--the first thing you mention which has dented your compassion, that is.

As it concerns her alleged hypocrisy, while "socially normal" and "somewhat decent-looking" don't seem to be the exact equivalent of "pretty enough", I have to concede the point. Though you bring up her standards when younger, her willingness, mentioned later, to presently settle for a "cute" man is harder to ignore. If indeed that means she is not as willing to give the same consideration to others as she wishes for herself, it does damage my sympathy for her a bit. I believe my point stands, with the caveat that it may certainly apply to her, too. I guess it can be hard to escape the temptation to enter into that kind of superficial judgment, even when you're a victim of it.
posted by millions at 9:59 AM on March 1, 2011


if you are not pretty enough nothing else matters, not really, not in dating.

A self-fulfilling prophecy, as very few men will be attracted to a woman who thinks she isn't pretty enough...no matter what she actually looks like.
posted by rocket88 at 9:59 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I went to a frum wedding last weekend which had hundreds of guests. There wasn't anything alluring about the way any of the frum women dressed. Frum dress is not about "unsexiness" per se, but any sort of sexiness would be anathema.

Not....necessarily. "Sexiess" is such a broad umbrella, after all -- and while I don't deny that there are many who have a very specific approach to frum, that specific look ain't all that's out there. (Someone once linked a web site called "Funky Frum" to a discussion we were all having about "modest clothing", and the conversation ground to a halt as we all checked out the site and started saying, "...huh. I'm not even trying to be Frum and I'd wear that." or "....I want this dress on page 3.") Cute frum may not be easy to find, but it's out there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:00 AM on March 1, 2011


But what stuck out for me is her fear of men who want to have sex, the "sleazebuckets," the fear of becoming "a target for sleazy" and "oily people" if she opens up. This fear was probably ingrained into her from an early age, but it will be her biggest liability in finding love or sex after she stops hewing to the shomer negiah principles. The fear may, perhaps, be the reason that she was able to stay with those principles long after many would have abandoned them.

Even outside the context of shomer negiah principles, her language suggests a host of other issues. It mirrors strangely how teenage boys will crave sex but talk about women as whores. She obviously has a lot of issues about her own self-worth and the motivations of men who share her desire for what is, to her, something forbidden, as well as the usual headaches surrounding dating, let alone dating in your 40s when you're from another culture and almost everyone is more sexually experienced than you.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:16 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


The faith of Judaism has contributed hugely to the general welfare of all mankind.

About a billion Chinese and a similar number of Indians would disagree with this narcissistic, West-centric viewpoint, Dee Xtrovert. If in fact they had ever heard of Judaism at all, which they haven't.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:17 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, cute frum exists. I know this because I used to work with a very cute orthodox woman who dressed in very cute frum. She also had a strained marriage and I could never tell if she was hitting on me or if she just generally related a bit oddly to men. She was a character. She used to give me rides home, but then I got paranoid - or maybe it was fancifully desirous - that going further would force me into Fatal Attraction by way of Philip Roth.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:21 AM on March 1, 2011


Someone once linked a web site called "Funky Frum"

How funny, I was googling around to look at Frum Fashion and found that site. Definitely not bad as far as outfits like that go. I think the Jews have a leg up on the Stereotypical Homeschooling Evangelicals fashion-wise, because at least the Jews aren't afraid to wear a lot of black. Black >>>>>> Laura Ashley Florals.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:23 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Cute, yes. Sexy, no.
posted by grouse at 10:28 AM on March 1, 2011


About a billion Chinese and a similar number of Indians would disagree with this narcissistic, West-centric viewpoint, Dee Xtrovert. If in fact they had ever heard of Judaism at all, which they haven't.

Man. Do you think it is possible to do one second worth of research before you make a statement?

History of the Jews in China.
History of the Jews in India.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:35 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Marriage was arranged, and for all that that rubs modern liberals the wrong way, when your values are the same as those in your religious community, it works really damned well for everyone involved. Knowing where you fit, having a place to belong, one valued and praised by your community, isn't something to be easily dismissed.

The appeal of the bolded sections is obvious, and this comes up a lot when comparing modern (largely) secular, pluralist worldviews with comprehensive religious ones. (By comprehensive, I mean something that defines all your social interactions, not just going to a religious service once a week.) I'm pretty skeptical that comprehensive religious worldviews can make good on the promise, though.

Yes, some people get to fit, have a place of belonging, and are valued and praised by their community of faith, but many, many people do not. And when they don't fit, it is the very comprehensiveness of the religious worldview that makes exchanging it for a more amenable one extraordinarily difficult, especially when it means discarding the only worldview you've ever taken as your own--and which has heretofore governed everything and everyone you knew, esteemed, and despised. Being unmoored and directionless is not unique to secular, pluralist, post-enlightenment societies, as those who are raised in but do not fit in a comprehensive religious community can readily attest. But by taking a broader view of what (and who) counts as fitting, belonging, and being valued and praised, pluralist worldviews like modern liberalism (in the sense valkyrin is talking about) at least make it easier to find and join a community where you do fit.
posted by Marty Marx at 10:42 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, there's "sexy frum". Those girls and women who adhere to the letter if not the spirit. That skirt might cover her (theoretical) ass and down below her knees, but it's so tight that well...And throwing a skin-tight flesh-toned body-stocking-thing under that strappy sleeveless dress doesn't exactly leave much to the imagination (not that I care-I'm just describing here).
And "frum" is a super vague term anyway. This woman who (as the comments on that post note) at 40, refers to herself repeatedly as a "girl" seems likely on the 'stricter' side of Modern Orthodox, but in MY daily professional life I dress A LOT like the tzniut [um, let's go with modest-clothing-wearing] "girl" I once was. Especially in the winter. And since I'm unmarried there's no headcovering question. She may be choosing to dress in a particular style of her community-like any subculture the subtleties become easy to spot with familiarity[teenager MO girls of the B'nei Akiva persuasion seem to adore skirts that are a few inches TOO long-dragging on the floor. Weird.], but it is not difficult to blend in and fulfill said strictures of modest dress.

To this other thing: the sex/no sex/when/orthos/non-religious. I have too many complicated thoughts to figure out what I want to say, except to note that we're all swimming in something; some sort of culture that pushes and pulls and makes decisions for us we didn't even KNOW were decisions. "That water we're swimming in" sort of stuff.
And now that this comment is WAY too long, it drives me batty the way that (we) Jews have combined several different halachot that have different supporting texts/arguments/reasons [laws of family purity, ritual purity, personal modesty, sexual propriety] and thrown them all together under this one "Negiah" heading. As if. For a group of people who claim such scholarly tendencies, when we're looking to circumscribe the lives of women we sure do tie it all up in artful, if disorganized, knot.
posted by atomicstone at 11:11 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm in my twenties and I relate to this a lot. Some people need (as a real, genuine fundamental need) intimate, meaningful and lifelong connections with other human beings, and we really do not live in a culture that appreciates that at all. These people are often like moonflowers, blooming secretly and out of sight, then wilting quietly or getting thrown away for not being another bunch of lilies.

It's sad. The kind of connection that's needed is by necessity rare, and if you get lucky enough to have it, that's almost worse, because you won't keep it. The world doesn't let you keep things like that, and once you've known what it is to really be connected with someone else, the dating pool just looks too dire to dip your toes into...

I suppose some could say that a person like this just needs to lower their standards, but it isn't that; it isn't imagining an ideal and wanting to make it real, rejecting everything less than perfect. It is a need, and accepting a life with someone nice who leaves your soul unstirred will do nothing for you except starve the spirit.
posted by byanyothername at 11:29 AM on March 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know...I think another thing going on here is a failing for society in general to process people who end up alone, either temporarily or for their whole lives.

Upthread someone spoke about how in the Orthodox community, someone who's unmarried at 40 is kind of perceived as....weird. Even though there may not be anything weird about that unmarried-over-40 person outside of just some really shit luck. But it's perceived as weird because "but...you're supposed to be married by now. And you're not. I don't know what to do with that situation."

And I was reflecting today on something in the "self-help relationship" book I recommend in here -- the only one I've ever even thought was worth the paper it was printed on -- If The Buddha Dated. I love the damn thing, and yet -- at the very end, out of the entire book, there is only one paragraph of advice for the people who find themselves in this situation of "what if I do all the 'right' things and my singlehood is just a result of my own damn bad luck?" And that's a sort of mealy-mouthed "try to enter into service for others because that can be fulfilling as well". And that may be true, but it sort of smacks of cold comfort to me.

Being single, when you've tried very hard not to be, can be very, very difficult, and depressing. And it's a situation that many people face for many reasons -- inside and outside religious communities. And I wonder if what makes it all the worse is that society itself doesn't really have any sort of real script for "what place do the single people have in this world?"

If we had more of a cultural script for "how single people fit into the world," I imagine that I'd still have my nights when I wished someone was asleep beside me, but the other stuff would smart much less. Same too for other single people.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on March 1, 2011 [12 favorites]


I imagine that I'd still have my nights when I wished someone was asleep beside me, but the other stuff would smart much less. Same too for other single people.

Nope, not me. I live in a big city where single people fit in just fine, for the most part. Doesn't take away the fact that my evolutionary needs require hugs from males.
posted by Melismata at 11:58 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


About a billion Chinese and a similar number of Indians would disagree with this narcissistic, West-centric viewpoint, Dee Xtrovert.

In your rush to make an ill-informed statement, you've missed the point, which is that the Jews have contributed much that the entire world has benefited from, and that's pretty undeniable, even if one's never heard of them. A large part of the reason I can connect this to the Jewish faith is because many of these contributions would have been less likely had it not been for various aspects of Judaism and Jewish culture, not to mention the "outsider" status imposed upon them by others, throughout many periods of history.

"Narcissisitic?" I'm not Jewish, but Muslim. (You know, the so-called "tradional" enemies of the Jews!) And my specific native culture happens to be well-known as one of the bridges between Eastern and Western cultures and thought. And in many ways, I'd reckon that many of the opinions I express here are often far less "West-centric" than those of most people.

If in fact they had ever heard of Judaism at all, which they haven't.

To paraphrase Wodehouse, they now have these things called "books," which can be used to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge. You should try one sometime! I suspect if you asked a question here in which you honestly stated that you know little about Jewish contributions to the world, or their place in history and influences outside of Biblical lands or Eastern / Central Europe, you might be flooded with suggestions of books delineating their roles and achievements like Latin America, the Indian subcontinent, far east Asia and many other interesting places.

Astro Zombie has already kindly provided some links, but the links between Jews / Judaism and many, many parts of the non-Western world are plentiful and compelling.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:22 PM on March 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


When I said that frum dress is explicitly designed to be unsexy, I meant it literally. The (100% male) rabbis who made up all the rules explicitly disallowed various things explicitly because they are sexy. I guarantee you that if you asked them, any women who is dressed "modestly" but still looks sexy is doing it wrong.

It's true that in practice, many subvert the intentions by following the letter of the law, or some subset thereof, but that was not the design.
posted by callmejay at 12:32 PM on March 1, 2011


The (100% male) rabbis who made up all the rules explicitly disallowed various things explicitly because they are sexy.

Cite, please?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:42 PM on March 1, 2011


At what point does personal responsibility enter into all of this? I have long suggested that religious indoctrination of children is quite akin to child abuse, because you are saddling a child with a belief system they don't have the intellectual maturity to judge - and as a result they may end up with hatred/selfhatred of gay people, misogyny, xenophobia, sexual hangups etc. and other life-long life-crippling obstacles. Obviously, many people disagree, but then go on to suggest, as in this case, that "religion is to blame".

But suppose we absolve religion of any role in this case. If her childhood religious indoctrination is not to blame, then who exactly is to blame for her buying into a belief system that ended up crippling her? I mean, why did she buy into a patently absurd mythology in the first place? Whom should she blame? Isn't she a co-conspirator in this debacle?

What this reminds me more than anything, is of the Nigerian 419 email scams. The emails are patently absurd - though perhaps less absurd than most religious mythology - yet, people keep falling for them. And don't say: "it's the unintelligent, or uninformed" who fall for this. Many otherwise very intelligent people fall for religion or for the 419 scams. It's not intelligence per se. It's a certain kind of psychological vulnerability, or blind spot, which causes those individuals to be unable to perceive obvious absurdities for what they are - and it's no doubt evolutionarily driven.

But religion, like the 419 scams, preys on people's intense needs/desires. They want to believe. So they end up being co-conspirators in their own deception. Have you ever seen those reports by distraught family members who try to argue someone out of handing over all their money to the email scammers - the long, horribly involved defenses erected by the "victim", all quite reminiscent of claims about the good health of the dead parrot in the Monty Python sketch. And then read similar stories from families of those who lost someone to a cult or another - or an established cult (religion) for that matter. It's utterly insane to someone who doesn't have that psychological profile, but that does not mean that the victim lacks intelligence or information.

So, she's decided that something doesn't add up. What makes her special here, and worthy of sympathy? How is she an innocent victim... unless it is indeed the case that religious indoctrination of small children is akin to child abuse? Other people seem to have been able to shake off the yoke of religion at a very early age. But she didn't. Whose fault is that?

Do many non-religious people also have problems meeting a soulmate despite "doing all the right things"? Why, yes, of course. The difference is, that the religious have that one additional huge layer of difficulty to pierce through - a religious worldview. It's all along a continuum - most religious people end up married, as do the non-religious. But some don't, and while her religion might have played a part in her fate, I'm not sure it would have been different if she were not religious. Perhaps, in the end, it is her responsibility, ultimately. Whether she believed in a 419 scam, or some religious fairytale, doesn't she bear the primary responsibility for her own fate?
posted by VikingSword at 12:48 PM on March 1, 2011


Cite, please?

Don't remember and can't find one by google, unfortunately.
posted by callmejay at 1:28 PM on March 1, 2011


Do many non-religious people also have problems meeting a soulmate despite "doing all the right things"? Why, yes, of course. The difference is, that the religious have that one additional huge layer of difficulty to pierce through - a religious worldview.

Lots of non-religious people also have "additional huge layers of difficulty to pierce through", like a history of childhood abuse, the loss of a limb or sense, a health issue, unattractive attitudes towards others' beliefs, or what have you. Are they also wholly responsible for their own fates?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:29 PM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


VikingSword, I possess the capability of sympathizing for those in difficult situations without considering whether they are special or worthy.
posted by grouse at 1:33 PM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Being unmoored and directionless is not unique to secular, pluralist, post-enlightenment societies, as those who are raised in but do not fit in a comprehensive religious community can readily attest.

Sure, but that wasn't quite my point. What I was getting at is that in addition to handing you a view of the good life, religious communities have historically accompanied that with fairly strong social mechanisms and institutions for including the large majority of their adherents in said view. Again, not everyone, but a large majority.

What's potentially unique about the past few decades is that while the view of the good life has only changed incrementally, those mechanisms have all but disappeared, significantly increasing the number of people who do not fit in such communities even if they have the same view of the good life. There were always people who just never bought into that view, but now we've got problems for people who do. This is new, or at least the scale of the problem is new. When it comes right down to it, many Western religious traditions are only now figuring out how to deal with urbanism

But in contrast to secular post-enlightenment societies, there is still some view of the good life to which one can subscribe rather than essentially doing it yourself. Historic religious communities provided both a view of the good life and a way to get there for most people. Contemporary religious communities still provide a view of the good life but getting there is, at this point, as much about dumb luck as anything else. But post-enlightenment societies provide neither, which is ultimately kind of the point of the Enlightenment, man being the measure of man etc. We're supposed to come up with that for ourselves, and we aren't necessarily given much in the way of social or intellectual resources to do it.

All of which to say that there are a whole ton of people in today's society feeling really lost and confused, and as religious communities doesn't work the way they used to, the practical difference between the secular and religious worlds on this point can be minimal even if the reasons are different.
posted by valkyryn at 1:38 PM on March 1, 2011


Lots of non-religious people also have "additional huge layers of difficulty to pierce through", like a history of childhood abuse,

So you agree with me that religious indoctrination of small children is a form of child abuse?

the loss of a limb or sense, a health issue,

None of these are unique to non-religious people. Religious people also can have these exact difficulties. The point was, the religious "have an additional layer". Basic logic: (n) groups of attributes + 1.

unattractive attitudes towards others' beliefs

I acknowledged that - after all I did say "most religious people end up married", so obviously unattractive beliefs, such as "anyone who doesn't accept Jesus as Lord, will be tortured in hell for all eternity" have not prevented them from finding a soulmate. Many religions are quite exclusionary of those who refuse to share their worldview, and that may limit the pool of available candidates for marriage. See how that turned out, small fonts and all?
posted by VikingSword at 1:51 PM on March 1, 2011


At what point does personal responsibility enter into all of this? I have long suggested that religious indoctrination of children is quite akin to child abuse, because you are saddling a child with a belief system they don't have the intellectual maturity to judge - and as a result they may end up with hatred/selfhatred of gay people, misogyny, xenophobia, sexual hangups etc. and other life-long life-crippling obstacles.

You go wrong is in assuming that this is somehow specific to religious indoctrination, first of all. And that religion always works that way; I'd argue that it does damage no more so than it offers benefits (and probably less.) To the extent that I was raised in a (fairly secular) Muslim home, I was "saddled" with forms of indoctrination, too. Primary among these were: Allah created all people and especially loves those with a pure and good heart, men and women must treat themselves and each other with respect, intolerance against those of different faiths and ideas is wrong (so long as those faith and ideas do not themsleves preach intolerance), the world is ours to see and experience, it is our duty to study and learn as much as we can about it, sex is generally a positive thing (but I'd better not catch you doing it!) and so on. I was also taught various stories about my faith, which tended to have the same sorts of "positive" moral teachings. I'm healthy and psychologically happy, I've overcome many great challenges in my life, and have survived horrible events, and I've adapted to a new language, country and culture quite successfully, and under stressful circumstances. The "indoctrination" of my childhood, contributed positively to these things.

Watch "Dogtooth" once to see that people are just as easily and completed fucked up and destroyed without any religion being involved. Religion is an easy target only because it's very clearly labeled, for the most part. (And it's often wrongly-labeled. A lot of criticism of various religions is actually criticism of traditional or tribal practices which predate the religion, though it's religion which gets the blame.)

I meet many Americans who believe strongly in their "God-given" right to earn sick amounts of money with no social obligations, or to drive Hummers with no regard for the planet or concern for sickening and personal waste - beliefs as strongly-held and dogmatic and sick (if not more so) as any religious ones. My grandmother, a simple but very religious woman, believed in helping others as often as we could, and that to do so wasn't an obligation, but a gift! A beautiful gift from Allah! And even when we were hungry during the war, when she could scrape something together to give to someone as bad off as us, she beamed with deep, inner joy, and I've no doubt this helped her survive.) Sexual hang-ups, homophobia, intolerance, xenophobia (etc) - these exist as strongly outside religion as they do inside.

But suppose we absolve religion of any role in this case. If her childhood religious indoctrination is not to blame, then who exactly is to blame for her buying into a belief system that ended up crippling her? I mean, why did she buy into a patently absurd mythology in the first place? Whom should she blame? Isn't she a co-conspirator in this debacle?

You're being dishonest, by judging this as "patently absurd mythology" in the first place. I mean, I don't share her beliefs, but I'm not judging. With your sort of prejudiced thinking, you'll never simply get an honest answer. In its own way, it's as dogmatic a way of thinking as that of her faith. The simple fact is, there's simply no way of knowing whether her life would be any better without her belief system. And one needs to counterbalance that by acknowledging that the lives of many other people with the same belief system may have been hugely enriched by it.

I've said many times that I'm not religious myself. But you know, I've read enough and seen enough to reach the point where I can make the observation that religion may be one of the primary reasons that mankind has advanced to its current, relatively prosperous state, despite the many periods and events of sheer evil it is responsible for. It's failed many, as any system has and as any system will. It's wrong, perhaps, to follow religion without questioning and really analyzing it (and ironically, the Jews are famous for doing just this.) But it's as wrong to see religion purely as indoctrination. That's a simplistic and inaccurate view, as stupidly black-and-white as religion at its worst.

Do many non-religious people also have problems meeting a soulmate despite "doing all the right things"? Why, yes, of course. The difference is, that the religious have that one additional huge layer of difficulty to pierce through - a religious worldview.

Again, that's a prejudiced (and inaccurate) view of things. Many of the religions we see as conservative have effective mechanisms in place relating to things like marriage. In other words, in many faiths, finding a soulmate is easier than it would be outside the religion (in general), and many people in these religions are not only *more likely* to be married, but have happier, more harmonious and longer-lasting marriages than those outside. Sometimes this is through a culturally-established, yet exceedingly pragmatic view of what a happy marriage really is in the end. Or, through other practices. I've gotten into the arranged marriage argument a few times. This isn't something done where I come from, but I know half a dozen or so arranged-marriage couples from various places. They are demonstrably happier (as a group) than those I know in "love matches," and this isn't just my anecdotal evidence, but a pretty well-established statistic. (And these aren't people living in a distant land in a more rustic society, but right here alongside me in America, with great educations, good jobs and liberal outlooks on most issues.) Sure, it seems extreme to an American, but when I think honestly about it, I have a hard time thinking it's any worse than a system where people get married in the peak of "romance" only to falter later . . . especially when the fate of such partnerships can be seen by others well in advance. Those people, too, were "abused" through a sort of invisible indoctrination in what "love" should be, that in many cases is as "patently absurd" as any religious practice. If you have a preference in this matter, it's almost assuredly based in long-standing cultural bias, because there's little "proof" that one is better than another.

So this "additional huge layer of difficulty to pierce through" thing may actually apply to this woman (or it may not, we can't really see her "alternative" outcome), but in general, it's not a problem for most people, and there's real evidence that quite the opposite is true. I'd also make the point that part of the pain this woman feels may not be due solely to the failure of her faith to help her find someone, but in knowing that hers is a very unusual aberration in a system whose rate of success may be quite larger than our own secular one.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:40 PM on March 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


valkyryn: But in contrast to secular post-enlightenment societies, there is still some view of the good life to which one can subscribe rather than essentially doing it yourself.

I appreciate your contributions to this thread, valkyryn, but I also wanted to point out that secular societies do indeed have a view of the good life. William McNeill describes it eloquently towards the end of The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community (1962).
The secularist hopes and theories of the West which have won partial hold over men's minds all round the globe are remarkably generous ones. Like the ideals of earlier religions, they may yet demonstrate a staying power even in the face of repeated disappointment and failure. At the least, it is clear that men of nearly all nations, having once been exposed to the notions of liberty, equality, and fraternity, in any of the versions and with any of the accents which have been put upon these ideals, find them hard to forget and impossible to neglect. The vision of a free, well-fed, well-clothed, well-housed, and well-educated human being, member of a free and peaceable society, exerting his proportional share of influence to determine the mild and equable policies of "his" government, and himself contributing to the general welfare to the best of his abilities, holds a vast attraction for almost everyone. It has the further advantage that it may be vulgarized or specified in almost any manner to prescribe almost any line of conduct and appeal to almost any audience. ...

Even a cursory consideration of the wars and revolutions, of the political and social reform movements, and of the activities of the great multitude of charitable, social service, welfare, and missionary agencies during the century since 1850 will show that many men have proved ready, even eager, to labor, to suffer, and if need be, to die in the struggle to bring the heavenly city to earth. Liberals, nationalists, socialists, and communists each have pursued their own version of the ideal on the political stage; and countless others each have have dedicated private efforts to the task of remodeling one or another corner of the social scene in the hope that, through the voluntary actions of innumerable individuals, a better approximation to the free, equal, and brotherly society of their dreams might in time be achieved.
posted by russilwvong at 2:54 PM on March 1, 2011


Russilwvong:
I don't want to speak for Valkyryn, but I took him to mean something like the all-encompassing notions of the good life like the role of Catholicism in Europe in the Middle Ages or the idea of citizenship for (some) members of an ancient Greek city-state. You can have liberals, nationalists, socialists, and communists are pursuing their "their own version of the ideal" only because there is no all-encompassing notion of the good life they must affirm. Instead, there is at most a minimalist account to which they might agree but that leaves a great deal open (like whether liberalism or nationalism is really the good life).

So it isn't that modern liberalism doesn't have any way of living that it accords as good, but that it is much less specific about that way of living than most alternatives. One of the questions is whether we lose something important by not being so specific. (I don't think we lose anything worth keeping, but then, I'm not a member of one of the communities that does poorly under modern liberalism).
posted by Marty Marx at 3:08 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


callmejay can't google or cite these rabbis [I don't mean this to be fighty] because while the ones he's thinking of were all 100% male, they never agreed on anything. That's sort of the point (well, maybe not the point).
Super low stakes example compared to all of this? Hillel says you light the chanukkiah starting with one candle on the first night and ending with eight on the last night (increasing in joy/amazingness of the miracle/whatever and we always increase!); Shammai says you should do it the other way because that's how a limited oil supply would actually last (the most light on day one running out to only a little bit at the end). Shammai, who usually takes the more strict position in these little fights [although this example isn't really a strict/relaxed sort of debate] is the minority view. Shammai's pretty much always the minority view.
[Once upon a time the Rabbis weren't searching for ways to make observance harder! Who knew!?] Hence the way most Jews around the world light chanukkiot. BUT! Growing up, my neighbors, who were from South Africa, lit theirs according to their rabbi-who followed Shammai.
Which wasn't wrong. It was the minority view.
Welcome to Talmudic Judaism 101? Ask for another legal opinion if that's what you want because the "turning it over" is a great deal of entire thing.
posted by atomicstone at 3:28 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


You go wrong is in assuming that this is somehow specific to religious indoctrination, first of all. And that religion always works that way; I'd argue that it does damage no more so than it offers benefits (and probably less.)

Nope, I don't assume this is specific to religious indoctrination. It's obvious, that you can indoctrinate a child into all sorts of negative things (like racial prejudice), without recourse to religion. What I do point to, is religion is a codified system of indoctrination, unlike perhaps a lot of other indoctrination which also can result in damage to a child.

Are all children obviously damaged by this indoctrination? No. Because people are different and their circumstances are different, and the outcomes are different. Which is not to say that millions have not been damaged, because they have. That a given treatment doesn't always result in damage is not an endorsement (see jogging on the autobahn).

The other aspect is what one would consider damage in the first place. To other racists, raising a racist child is not damaging to the child. But that's a rather obvious point, with a large community arrayed on the side of "clear damage". On the other hand, some - like me - consider as damage things which many would not consider as such at all; specifically, a child is not in an intellectual position to make their own judgment about theism as a worldview, and we do take care to expose children to age-appropriate topics, such as f.ex. pornography. To me, to indoctrinate into a child a belief in supernatural beings is wrong, just as it is wrong to shape a world-view that's based on superstition - it can, and frequently does have deleterious consequences, when the person then bases their life on magical thinking (like f.ex. prayer instead of medical care is one example that's come before the courts). Therefore, any religious indoctrination of a small child that cannot judge the veracity of such claims is abusive just for that fact alone, the mere claim of the supernatural. To me that's tremendously damaging - but obviously, many would disagree.

You're being dishonest, by judging this as "patently absurd mythology" in the first place. I mean, I don't share her beliefs, but I'm not judging. With your sort of prejudiced thinking, you'll never simply get an honest answer. In its own way, it's as dogmatic a way of thinking as that of her faith.

Oh no - I assure you I'm being quite honest about judging any religious myth as quite absurd. I apply an evidence-based set of criteria to beliefs, and as such, religious beliefs are indeed quite absurd. Far from being "prejudiced thinking", this is the result of a careful examination of the philosophical foundations of theological arguments; I dare say, I've probably done more deep examination of this topic than she did, considering that I went on to study philosophy at the uni. And "In its own way, it's as dogmatic a way of thinking as that of her faith", doesn't even come into the realm of a sensible argument - in the very definition of dogma, since in contradistinction to religious belief, I avow evidence based arguments; this is similar to the "atheism is just another religion" nonsensical claim. It is not an extraordinary position to maintain that there's an utter lack of evidence for any religious claims of the supernatural. I'll be happy to make that argument in as detailed and formal fashion as anyone wishes addressing specific theological arguments (up until about 1985, but since then I have not kept up with the field).

And I certainly would not argue that religion is not successful in getting people into marriages (in fact I pointed that out). There are many very successful methods, religious and cultural - for example: stolen brides - very successful. I believe in letting people do as they wish within their cultures or religion (like arranged marriages), and many find successful marriages in them.

Rather, and I thought I made this clear, I think that you have a personal responsibility. If you are in a religion, or organization, no matter what the arrangements of letters may be, RCC, KKK, or whatever, and you freely bought into such a system, but then decided that the organization or religion or worldview betrayed you, then you have an obligation to yourself, for the sake of intellectual consistency, to terminate your membership. If you persist in being a member, but don't like the outcome, my sympathy is limited ("doctor, it hurts when I hit myself; well, don't hit yourself"). At that point, it is not the religion that's holding you back, it's you yourself - personal responsibility. The caveat of course is "freely", and I do have sympathy for children indoctrinated by religious upbringing, and of course for those who have no choice in cultural (or religious) situations when it comes to marriage. But if she's in the West, free to decide for herself, well, she's responsible.
posted by VikingSword at 3:41 PM on March 1, 2011


At that point, it is not the religion that's holding you back, it's you yourself - personal responsibility. The caveat of course is "freely", and I do have sympathy for children indoctrinated by religious upbringing, and of course for those who have no choice in cultural (or religious) situations when it comes to marriage. But if she's in the West, free to decide for herself, well, she's responsible.

I don't think it's that simple. It is definitely that simple if one is talking about a non-orthodox religion, Catholicism or whathaveyou. Her religious community is her social community, social support, basically everything. If she gave up her religion, she would literally be giving up her entire life and breaking up with everyone who's ever supported her. I recommend reading about people who have left the Orthodox, and especially the ultra-orthodox community. It's sadly not as simple as "fuck y'all, I'm goin' home!"
posted by fuq at 3:51 PM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


ok maybe not Catholicism. Presbyterianism, then, I mean. The lord's frozen chosen.
posted by fuq at 3:53 PM on March 1, 2011


Her religious community is her social community, social support, basically everything. If she gave up her religion, she would literally be giving up her entire life and breaking up with everyone who's ever supported her.

Right. But people have done more than that. People have uprooted themselves and transplanted across the ocean, not only into a different community but an utterly alien culture. Refugees not only from their religious community, but from their very country. People have moved to another country to be with a loved one or to find a loved one. I don't deny that there are degrees of difficulty. It's harder to separate from Orthodox than from Catholic communities and perhaps it's easier yet with Presbyterianism. But people struggle against many obstacles. As I said, the difference being that for religious people, there is that additional layer of difficulty - and perhaps I should have specified that that difficulty in turn depends on the kind of religion it is too, so some can be harder than others.
posted by VikingSword at 4:02 PM on March 1, 2011


People have uprooted themselves and transplanted across the ocean, not only into a different community but an utterly alien culture.

You are right, that's a good point.
posted by fuq at 4:16 PM on March 1, 2011


So it isn't that modern liberalism doesn't have any way of living that it accords as good, but that it is much less specific about that way of living than most alternatives.

You've basically got the point of my comment, but it's more than that: any number of different modern liberals can come up with any number of different concepts of what constitutes the good life, and none of them can be more right than any other, because a big part of liberalism is making that decision for yourself, being free to choose what you think is good for you.

In its historic forms, Christianity (and Orthodox Judaism, to a certain extent) has a problem with this. It's far from alone there; most of the major world religions aren't all that big on personal ethical autonomy as much as they are about learning some more-or-less defined system or at least perspective of/for ethics.
posted by valkyryn at 4:23 PM on March 1, 2011


So you agree with me that religious indoctrination of small children is a form of child abuse?

VikingSword, don't be obtuse.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:38 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


People have uprooted themselves and transplanted across the ocean, not only into a different community but an utterly alien culture.

However, other people also have found this kind of thing to be too difficult for them because of fear of the unknown. We have no way of knowing which kind of person this is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:23 PM on March 1, 2011




People have uprooted themselves and transplanted across the ocean, not only into a different community but an utterly alien culture.

However, other people also have found this kind of thing to be too difficult for them because of fear of the unknown. We have no way of knowing which kind of person this is.


That is not the only reason why people do not uproot themselves and transplant across the ocean.
posted by Melismata at 5:30 PM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


That is not the only reason why people do not uproot themselves and transplant across the ocean.

That's actually kind of my point -- that just because some people have done a thing, it doesn't necessarily follow that anyone could do that same thing. Just because some people are able to move into a completely alien environment and make a new life, there are a number of valid reasons why this is not a valid choice for other people. And asking these other people to make that step, or criticizing them for not making it, is unfair.

Similarly, just because there are some people who are able to leave a religious society, there are a number of other reasons why this is not a valid choice for other people. And criticizing them for not making that choice...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:38 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


All right, EmpressCallipygos, I changed my mind. I do apologize for an unnecessarily harsh response. I am not suggesting that it's easy to just uproot yourself. I should have made that clear and perhaps I was deficient in sympathy with regard to the degree of difficulty involved. People are individuals, and what's easy for one may be incredibly difficult for another. Again, I'm sorry.
posted by VikingSword at 5:47 PM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thank you, sir.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:26 PM on March 1, 2011


I don't want to derail, but a lot more people could find their soulmates, if they weren't surrounded by relentless propaganda of false standards. That includes beauty, of course.
posted by VikingSword at 6:33 PM on March 1, 2011


Her religious community is her social community, social support, basically everything. If she gave up her religion, she would literally be giving up her entire life and breaking up with everyone who's ever supported her.

There are a bunch of married Orthodox secret atheists and it's even worse for them -- if they leave, they risk losing not only their communities but their spouses and even children.

I was lucky in several ways. I grew up Modern Orthodox, so my family didn't disown me or anything. They just got sad and mad and begged me to stay, but now we have a good relationship. I also got out before I got married or had kids. All that and it was still pretty hard. I have a few friends who did the same. It wasn't easy for anybody. Some of us have had therapy and others need therapy. Nobody regrets it, though.
posted by callmejay at 7:17 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man. Do you think it is possible to do one second worth of research before you make a statement?

History of the Jews in China.
History of the Jews in India.

Astro Zombie, the fact that some Jews live in India and China does not de facto prove that their faith has "contributed hugely to the general welfare" of China and India. And your one-second-worth of research was worth all the effort you put into it, for proving that point.


Dee Xtrovert : "Narcissisitic?" I'm not Jewish, but Muslim.
From the Judeo-Muslim-Christian tradition. It's like you're claiming that boasting about your father isn't egotism, since he isn't you...

If in fact they had ever heard of Judaism at all, which they haven't.

To paraphrase Wodehouse, they now have these things called "books," which can be used to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge. You should try one sometime!


You should buy one for each of the Chinese and Indians who have never read one. If you go back before Ghandi and Sun Yat-Tsen, that would be almost all of them. IOW: as I said, to most Indians and Chinese throughout recorded history, Jews were unheard of.


Next up: A Levite Jew once visited the Great Wall of China... therefore, the Great Wall of China benefited from his faith!
posted by IAmBroom at 8:58 PM on March 1, 2011


IAmBroom: From the Judeo-Muslim-Christian tradition.

If you're going to include Islam and Christianity, both have had a major impact on India and China.
posted by russilwvong at 10:46 PM on March 1, 2011


Yeah, yeah, but other than the effect Judaism has had on mankind, what effect has Judaism had on mankind?
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:10 PM on March 1, 2011


any number of different modern liberals can come up with any number of different concepts of what constitutes the good life, and none of them can be more right than any other, because a big part of liberalism is making that decision for yourself, being free to choose what you think is good for you.

Well, I'd disagree there. Modern liberalism may not settle the question of which conception is correct, but that doesn't mean that that no answers are ruled out, that the question cannot be settled at all, or that there is no correct answer. For example, modern liberalism would allow a variety of religions that disagree about which god or gods are real. Modern liberalism wouldn't settle the question of which gods were real. The available evidence might even be such that each religion's belief was justifiable without being unassailable. Nevertheless, it still might be the case that one religion was correct about their god being the real one. The same would work for conceptions of the good life. Being free to choose what I think is good for me isn't the same as actually choosing what is good for me.
posted by Marty Marx at 11:51 PM on March 1, 2011


fuq: "It is definitely that simple if one is talking about a non-orthodox religion, Catholicism or whathaveyou ...

ok maybe not Catholicism. Presbyterianism, then, I mean. The lord's frozen chosen.
"

Upthread I noted just, you know, walking away from religion.

Amusingly, it was this one, and the intense focus on personal intellectual responsibility which underlies Presbyterian theology is precisely what led me to the conclusion that there's no there there. I hadn't really considered the additional aspect that limited social expressiveness in a communitarian setting may also weaken the social bond, but, uh, yeah. Don't miss it, or them. Nor do I have strong social bonds today, generally, something I am happy about and view positively. We are each the product of our natal communities.
posted by mwhybark at 12:51 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Being free to choose what I think is good for me isn't the same as actually choosing what is good for me.

QED.
posted by valkyryn at 5:06 AM on March 2, 2011


A Levite Jew once visited the Great Wall of China

Thereafter known as the Great Wailing Wall of China.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:49 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


QED.

But that's not what you were saying, i.e. that being free to choose what is good for me makes it impossible to be right about what is good for me. I'm saying these are different things, and absent some argument for why liberalism requires relativism, you can have the first without the second.
posted by Marty Marx at 9:12 AM on March 2, 2011


absent some argument for why liberalism requires relativism

I had thought that was implicit.
posted by valkyryn at 10:44 AM on March 2, 2011


Astro Zombie, the fact that some Jews live in India and China does not de facto prove that their faith has "contributed hugely to the general welfare" of China and India. And your one-second-worth of research was worth all the effort you put into it, for proving that point.

I'm not going to do your homework for you. My two links actually demonstrated what you claim they didn't -- that Judaism has had a long history in both countries, and has impacted both. Any additional research you do will support this.

Your dismissive sneer about the impact Judaism has had on the world is not supported by facts, and, when I brought facts to the table, your second dismissive sneer did not wish them away. I ask that if you are to engage in good faith argument, you do your part of the work.

And Jews come from the Middle East, not the West, as you asserted in your original statement. Israel is in western Asia. Jews identify their source of origin as Mesopotamia -- modern day Iraq. And there's no denying they have a long history there. And genetic studies demonstrate that Jews do share a common paternal lineage back to the Middle East. So your essential thesis -- that there is some sort of "Western" egomaniacism at play here -- is fundamentally flawed.

Perhaps you think it is too much to ask that you know what you're talking about before you open your mouth. I think it is essential to intelligent conversation.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:53 AM on March 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


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