From the Archives (December 13, 1990; Volume 56 Special Joint Issue) — UnCommon Observations
Editor’s Note: The Commentator has decided to reprint these two articles from a Special Supplementary Joint Issue, co-published by The Commentator and The Observer. Though written 27 years ago, these pieces about the YU dating scene remain relevant and on-point.
Title: Lethargic Syndrome of Dating
Authors: David Kolb and Carey Schreiber
Bogged down with work? Not meeting the “nice Jewish girl” you thought you would? Saving money for that big date? Welcome to Yeshiva University.
It’s Thursday night, and there is no one around YC to be found. Are they out on dates? No! They have all gone home to rest their weary little eyes after an intensive week of exams, papers, and other schoolwork. Is this any way to enjoy college life?
Thus begins, what we like to term, the “Lethargic Syndrome of Dating (LSD).”
At first glance, Joe Yeshiva notices the convenient location of his sister school (Stern College for Women Only), 150 blocks due south. Our weary student attempts to secure passage to this “sister school.” In doing this, Joe is confronted with a major difficulty: “To van, or not to van.” If Joe decides to take the van route, he must now become a linebacker attempting to secure his position in the line to the van. Failure to do so sends Joe to the safe, secure, and punctual subway.
Upon arrival, Joe is greeted with some warm and welcome stares (a.k.a. Stern Lounge). Carefully he makes his way toward the courtesy phone, to make his second voice contact with his “date.” Waiting in the lounge, our hero begins to perspire at the thought of the impending evening. Should I take her to Mr. Broadway, Kosher Delight, or Cafe Wah? Wait, we might see someone we know, and feel awkward. Think quick Joe; she’s getting off the elevator.
After a lovely and frugal (thrifty) time painting the town, Joe accompanies his companion to “Brookdale Hall.” As he attempts to say goodnight, his voice is drowned by the bellow of the Burns security guard. “LAST VAN LEAVING NOW. ROOM FOR ONE MORE.” During the long ride home, Joe has some quality time to contemplate his evening, while other van riders contemplate aloud. Not a bad evening, considering we saw 12 people we knew, spent $70.00, (plus tip), and met new and interesting cabbies. At least the company was good!
Joe returns home for the weekend, feeling optimistic. He spends a majority of the weekend studying for his classes. The week passes, Thursday rolls around again, and Joe is faced with his weekly dilemma. He ponders whether to go down to Stern and see his new friend, or save time and money and just rely on Ma Bell. After his conversation, Joe heads down to Morg Lounge to watch the game. After the game, he realizes that it was both fun and inexpensive to view this sporting event with his male companions, without feeling the pressure of dating. Thus ends stage two of LSD.
In our third stage, Joe has come to accept the comfort of “Thursday Night Male Bonding.” In his subconscience, he realizes that he was supposed to call her at halftime…or at least as the post game show ends. Is 2:15 A.M. too late to call? Don’t do it Joe, remember she has 6 other roommates (tight squeeze). I’ll call her next week…Two months later, Joe asks, is it still too late to call?
With the roar of the Madison Square Garden crowd, Joe has now entered our final stage of “Lethargic Syndrome of Dating.” As he rationalizes his motives for his hermit-like existence, Joe justifies his decision by saying, “It wouldn’t have worked anyway.”
We, the members of Student Optimism for Campus Intervisitation and After-Class Life (S.O.C.I.A.L.), plead with you the students of Yeshiva University … DON’T BE A JOE, GET UP AND GO!
For information, call us. Please!
Title: Dating in the Dark
Authors: Avrum Aaron and Deborah Aharon
Why do they call them blind dates? Because when you see your date you say to yourself, “Gee, the person that set me up must have been blind!” So goes the old joke.
For centuries blind dates, or shiduchim, have been a social reality. In the past, most Jewish young men and women have relied on this method of meeting for the lack of an alternative, or simply because it was tradition. Since most religiously observant men and women did not socially interact as freely as they do in our day, it was necessary to rely on an outside party to make marital matches.
To this day, the ‘blind date method’ is still used by many orthodox people for basically the same reasons. However, there is a new development. Many young people in the orthodox community prefer to meet their match on their own rather than via a friend. Now that society provides many more opportunities than before to meet people in a more ‘natural’ setting, they have begun to frown upon the old-fashioned method. Hence, multitudes of YU students are divided in their approach.
Blind dating still has many adherents, even among modern YU students. “It’s the way to go,” admits one SCW student. “How else will you meet a certain type of guy?”
“Why mess with something that has history on its side?” comments another SCW student. “My parents met that way!”
Despite undeniable success stories, many students express discomfort or even abhorrence towards the blind dating system. “I hate it,” says an SCW student emphatically. “It has gotten to the point where I will refuse dates even if they ‘sound good’ because I can’t stand the pressure. Your every move is under surveillance.”
“I don’t enjoy them,” says another. “I guess if I would, I’d be married.”
Further questioning revealed that positive or negative attitudes towards blind dating are usually the result of upbringing, or past experiences with the system.
Those opposed to the system voice dissatisfaction with the entire process, from the initial arrangement via friends or family to the post-date analysis with the people who set you up.
The blind date is usually arranged by friends, but occasionally relatives try to play their hand at the shiduch game. “Once, this girl I didn’t even know came up to me and asked me if I wanted to go out with her brother,” complains one SCW junior. “I didn’t even know her, why would I want to go out with her brother?”
At the YC campus, one student comments, “I only let my closest friends set me up because they know me best.”
The details that make the date a blind one are also a cause for apprehension. There are certain questions that cross one’s mind when someone sets you up. Very often, the primary question pertains to appearance.
“I never ask what she looks like because whether she looks like an elephant or is gorgeous, they always say she’s fine,” disagrees one YC student. Young women at SCW also admit they are concerned about looks.
Other aspects that one wants to know about are personality, sense of humor, level of religious observance, education, age, tastes and interests, intelligence, background, and what the parents do. One Smicha student wanted to know such specific details as whether her mother covers her hair and whether her siblings go to Yeshiva. “The problem here,” notes a YC senior, “is that after all the questions and answers, exaggerations, embellishments, half-truths and down-right lies, you still have little knowledge about your date!”
Once these preliminary questions have been asked, someone has to take the initiative and usually it is the man. “The most awkward situation is calling up the girl for the first time,” says one YC junior. “It’s definitely worse for the guy.”
An SCW woman felt differently. “I usually don’t know what to say especially if he’s not forthcoming,” she says. “I also hate the small-talk although I know it’s kind of necessary.”
Since the main purpose of the call is to set up a meeting place, the obvious next source of tension is the meeting itself. While some may feel comfortable meeting right in the lobby of Brookdale Hall, most of those interviewed preferred to meet in a less conspicuous location. “Usually the guy says something to the effect of, ‘I’ll meet you across the street from Brookdale Hall. I’ll be the one wearing the paper bag over my head,’” admits one generally timid young YC man. “I’d rather meet her on the corner,” says another. At SCW, one woman had a different experience. “You can’t win,” she says. “I asked a guy to meet me on the corner and he got insulted.” Others, however, did not mind getting away from the lobby scene to meet their date. As one woman says, “It’s no one’s business who I go out with.”
Whatever actually happens on the date, one can be sure that both will reveal their complete life’s history in the period of a few hours. Equally as certain is the inevitable evaluation and report of this evaluation to the party who initiated the meeting. “That’s the worst part,” says one YC senior. “I’m always apprehensive about what will be said.”
As intricate and detailed as these problems may be, there are still many who resolve themselves to making the best of blind dates. “It’s a fact of life,” remarks a YC sophomore.
“It’s like applying for a graduate school or med school,” muses an SCW student. “You may not like studying for entrance exams, but the only way to succeed is by working hard to prepare for them. While studying for them, one may take many practice tests in order to succeed by the real one. Dating is the biggest test of all.”
Proof that many YU students do make use of the ‘blind-date method’, whether due to genuine initiative or peer pressure, is the YCSC sponsored “blind date” that occurs once or twice a year. While participation is low, some students have enjoyed them. “I got to meet some really interesting people who I would never have gone out with on my own,” asserts one SCW sophomore.
“It wasn’t so bad,” agrees one YC senior. “I might even go again.”
These people seem to recognize the faults in the system, yet despite all the uncertainty, apprehensiveness, dread, and unpleasant psychological preparation which goes into the blind date, they also recognize the fact that many people have been known to meet their match in this manner. And, even if the night goes poorly, it’s a valuable experience about which you can speak…on the next blind date!!