Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Are Haredi Girls More Open Minded When it Comes to Intellectuals?

Michael Makovi has a post on his experiences with dating girls to the right and more modern girls. As someone whose religious views are still fairly liberal in many respects, one would expect that he would have an easier time dating more modern girls. Such girls would be expected to be more "open-minded" and accepting of him. Judging from his experiences with dating websites like Frumster, this is not the case:

Whenever I write to MO women, specifically ones whose profiles evince some basic compatibility with me in terms of both hashqafa (weltanschauung or ideology) and general intellectuality (she doesn't have to be a nerd like me, but she at least has to be intellectual enough to appreciate one), the response I usually get is quite negative. That is, if I get a response at all; about half of the women don't respond at all. (They have premium accounts, so that's not the problem.) Just earlier this week, one wrote back to me, saying, "relationships with high-maintenance, socially-unaware, overbearing people who suck me dry are exactly what I just cut out of my life." ...

By contrast, when I write to the more yeshivishe or Beit Ya'akov-ish women, I almost always get a very warm response. I don't know how many times the woman has said that if only my hashqafa were further to the right, that she'd be very willing to date me. In fact, several times, I've been told that even with my left-wing hashqafa, she'd love to be platonic friends, if only she were willing to have platonic friendships with the opposite sex.

I have had some similar experiences (one of the reasons why I am still gloriously single). I have used Frumster from time to time with little success. Like Makovi, I focused on trying to contact girls, who appeared to be well educated, open and having similar interests to mine; in essence Modern Orthodox girls. I rarely got a response back, and fewer still led to any meaningful contact. Contrary to expectations, I find that I have an easier time getting to conversations with Haredi girls. Even when they do not understand what I am trying to say, they will make the extra effort to ask and try to understand. Maybe this has to do with Haredi girls being actively trained to be polite and make the extra effort to be kind to strange creatures like me. It also might have been to my advantage that most of these situations were non-dating ones to begin with.

My theory is that Haredi girls, coming from a "patriarchal" mindset, expect a man who is smarter than they are and who can talk over their heads. Remember these girls are supposed to be looking for a "Talmud Chacham" and the "best boy in Lakewood." Girls from the Modern Orthodox camp are operating in an equality framework and expect someone who is their intellectual equal or even someone they can intellectually dominate. This is not to question the intelligence of any woman. The problem is that they are also very defensive about this intellectual parity. They will see any situation where you can out-talk them as you attempting to be a show-off, out to prove that you are their intellectual superior.

In her last email to me, my ex-girlfriend Dragon wrote: "I know you consider yourself an intellectual, however, that does not mean I am an idiot and have little knowledge on some subjects. You have in the past insulted my intelligence when having conversations with you."

I could swear on a stack of bibles, that I never called her an idiot or questioned her intelligence. She was a very smart person otherwise I would not have agreed to date her in the first place. What we did have was me speaking in my normal string of association fashion. One needs to be fairly well-read in the sorts of things that interest me (the sorts of things that I regularly discuss on this blog) to follow what I am saying. Some people do better at this than others. This, though, was transformed into a personal attack even if experience with me should have told her, on an intellectual level, that this was not the case. Dragon may have been a very smart person, but she emotionally needed to be clearly acknowledged as being the one on top. Anything less would mean accepting inferiority.

In my personal situation, there is also the Asperger syndrome element. I would argue that this merely plays into this model. My style of speaking is connected to my Asperger situation. Ironically enough, it is my attempt to relate to people within an Asperger context. The difficulty with Asperger syndrome is forming emotional relationships. I want someone I can talk to, that is what a relationship means to me. Modern girls can be expected to wish for some sort of emotional connection that is beyond my understanding and my ability to give, putting me in an unwinnable situation. With girls who are a little "less modern," I still have a chance. They are more likely to think in more pragmatic terms, the good man, the intelligent man. These are things that I can deliver.

I have no idea what the situation is like outside of Orthodox Judaism. I put the challenge out there to feminists of the Maureen Dowd school; is it really that men cannot bear to deal with intelligent women or is it the feminist women who cannot bear to deal with an intelligent man?


PrincessMax said...

I think your theory about Heredi girls being trained to politeness and submission is probably totally accurate for many of the women you are interacting.

I think that feminist women don't generally have a problem with intelligent men. I think that feminist women still live in a world that overwhelmingly expect them to act like Heredi women and this sets their default mode to be a little defensive.

I've done a little internet dating myself and I've found that it's downfall is that people approach it expecting to be able to run a search and find the person who has 9 out of 10 checks on the list we all carry in our heads about what our ideal mate is like.

The reality is that love and chemistry very rarely occur within the confines of what we think we want. I met my husband at a party and he probably meets 3 out of the 10 items on the list. I never would have thought I would change so much to accommodate having him in my life and I never thought that changing would make me this happy. Me? Keeping a kosher home? Really?

I suggest you consider being a little looser in your requirements and publish that looseness with the claim that you're willing to let God and love change your mind for the right woman. You might be surprised how many women out there are like you. If you're stuck in the middle, you might need to get a little stricter in your observance to find a woman who isn't defensive or you might need to get a little more tender and caring if you want to find a woman who is intelligent. Saying, "Take me as I am or I don't want you!" only gets you so far Saying, "I am willing to accommodate you in order to be with you," gets you much farther.

In Orthodox Judaism, you also have the option of a matchmaker. Have you ever gone that route? I'd be interested to hear your expereinces.

Izgad said...

Essentially I have two requirements for marriage. That the person be close enough to where I am in personal observance to make it practical to run a household together. Also that the person be someone I can feel comfortable talking to using my running game of associations. In theory at least, I would be open to a traditional Conservative.
I have informally talked to matchmakers. Matchmaking, as with internet dating, has not worked well for me because these are systems that require models and boxes. I have this person with a set of characteristics and I am trying to match him with someone who brings something similar. As this blog stands in evidence, I do not fit into easy categorizes nor am I an easy person to understand. I often tell people trying to set me up that the person should be able to understand the contents of this blog.
When I was on Saw You At Sinai I was constantly sent matches that I could not explain why there would be a connection. When I asked for an explanation I was told: “you are an educated person who went to college and this person went to college.” It very well may be that I am working on a doctorate in history and this person got a degree in physical therapy from a community college. I have no objection to people with degrees in physical therapy any more than I object to garbage men, but like being trained as a garbage man, a degree in physical therapy does not count as an education. A physical therapist can be well read and so can a garbage man.

Mikewind Dale (Michael Makovi) said...

Very interesting post.

What you suggest about intellectual women being on the defensive is provocative. I suspect you're now on a feminist's hit-list :P, but still, what you say is something to ponder.

What you suggest about Haredi women being more trained to be "polite" and marry upwards, etc., is also thought-provoking. You say, "Even when they do not understand what I am trying to say, they will make the extra effort to ask and try to understand." You suggest their politeness as a reason, but I think there might be another reason for this. I don't know about you, but me personally, I think that even though my positions are liberal, nevertheless, my way of approaching them is conservative. That is, I look for traditional sources, I try to find a leniency in the halakhah, I try to justify my liberal positions based on the mesorah. My actual positions themselves are liberal, but I rely on precedent as if I were more conservative. I also "feel" the same way about my liberal positions as a conservative person does about his, if that makes sense. So I think the Haredi woman, while she doesn't "understand what I am trying to say", nevertheless, she can tell that I "feel" about what I'm saying, and I approach the topic about what I'm saying, the same way a more conservative person (like in her circle) would. She doesn't know what I'm saying, but the basic shape of what I'm saying, its basic framework, is recognizable to her as her kind of Torah. I'm reminded of something Moshe Feiglin says about himself: he says leftists are afraid of him, because he's a rightist who "thinks" like a leftist.

You also mention your speaking in a "string of association fashion". Have you ever heard someone say something, and then that reminds you of something, and then that in turn reminds you of something, and then that reminds you of yet something else, and finally, you verbalize that last thought, and everyone looks at you like you're crazy for speaking non-sequiturs? (This whole process takes only a split second.) And then you explain to them the entire mental train of thought that lead to what you eventually said out loud?

Izgad said...

How does Feiglin think like a leftist? No intended to present company, but when I read Feiglin (usually on shul bulletin boards) he comes across as either a loudmouth egotistical theocrat (if we take Judaism as a religion) or fascist (if we take Jews as a nation), a Jewish Lyndon LaRouche.

Your description of string of association thinking matches my personal experience. Have you ever been tested to see if you are an Asperger?

PrincessMax said...

I'm glad I could get you to think, Mikewind, but a feminist would have to be pretty extremist to put me on his or her hit list. I consider myself feminist and my description is completely from my own experience. It hurts to be rejected because you aren't submissive, especially when you believe that unequal gender roles hurts both genders. Most feminism isn't just about making life better for women; it's about making society a more equitable place where both men and women can reach the full potential God gave them.

So, when something hurts, it is only human to be on the defensive in the future, especially in such a charged context as dating. I suggest tenderness and care as a response from a partner who really wants that kind of woman but needs advice about how to get through the thorns to smell the rose. Sometimes you have to give a little in order to get a little.

Mikewind Dale (Michael Makovi) said...

Benzion/Izgad, Feiglin's basic method is to behave in a politically-intelligent manner. Unlike people like Bibi, Feiglin has both political acumen, as well as backbone. He can cite authoritative political thinkers to support his claims, and he sticks to his claims, rather than being over-awed by the popularity and power of the leftists.

PrincessMax, I was joking. ;) Anyway, I'm not looking for a submissive woman, and I don't think Benzion/Izgad is either. I think that, as he says, the "modern" women misunderstand us, and erroneously believe we are intending to insult them. I consider myself a feminist, but if other women somehow think I'm sexist, then what can I do? I can't stop being myself, and I won't tape my mouth closed. I'm a nerd, and I'm going to act like one. If a woman misunderstands nerdiness as sexism, then that's her problem.

I've wondered if I have Aspberger's, and I do show some of the symptoms, albeit in a relatively mild form. I don't think it's worth my taking the time to have it diagnosed, however. I've made my peace with myself.

Mikewind Dale (Michael Makovi) said...

Oh, PrincessMax, I see. You thought I was responding to you. My original response was to Benzion/Izgad, not to you. I was saying the feminists would put HIM on a hit-list.

Izgad said...

Here is a basic test (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aqtest.html) constructed by Simon Baron Cohen (Yes he is related to Ali G). My father first found out about Asperger syndrome when I was in high school and it struck him how closely it fit my behavior. For years I resisted getting any official confirmation even though I assumed that I had it. The reason for this was that, like you, I was able to function in my day to day life and therefore thought it was irrelevant. A few years ago I finally decided to be officially tested and to become active in this issue. I have benefited from being able to take part in the growing Asperger support community. Studying about Asperger syndrome has taught me little about Asperger syndrome. I have always understood Asperger syndrome, even before I heard the term; Asperger syndrome was my life and my “normal.” What I have learned a lot about are neurotypicals (people not on the autism spectrum). I always knew that regular people were different and “odd.” Now, I have a language to express how and why this is the case. If you want, I can put you in touch with someone who heads an Asperger support group in Israel.

Also you are free to call me either Benzion or Izgad. You do not have to refer to me as Benzion/Izgad. :)

evanstonjew said...

IMHO there is a big difference between traffic and settling in. The goal should be traffic... no traffic ,no settling down. With respect to the problem of how to get along with dates and attract women it is absolutely irrelevant what you are thinking about or your shiteh about this or that. To an outsider it is one huge bore. The relevant question is what is the woman about and how you can present yourself so that she likes to be with you. Here qualities such as humor, lightness, playfulness and an interest in what interests her count. Smartness, seriousness, hashkafah are unimportant. If you don't know how, take lessons. A good place to start are the 1930's movie comedies of marriage and divorce, e.g. Hepburn, Tracy, Cary Grant etc.

Once you solve the traffic problem and have a choice of nice, pleasant, clever and interesting women, once you know how to interact in an easy way, then the choice is yours who you want to marry.

Again, never about you...about nothing in particular or her, and always easy.If you can draw your date out so that she gets to talk all night long, she will think you are a genius. If you go on all night, she'll think you are an idiot.