Aish.com, a Jewish organization whose “goal is to give every Jew the opportunity to discover his or her heritage in an atmosphere of open inquiry and mutual respect” took an opportunity to talk about Jewish relationships through a gendered lens. They completely wasted it. On January 8th, two women with L.C.S.W. and J.D., M.Sc. degrees respectively, published an article, Five Ways to Turn Off a Guy. The title alone doomed the article for failure, and yet I could not resist clicking to read what they had to say.
After consulting a total of three married men (so you know that they have a proven success rate with women), their top five list, relished with quotes and anecdotes, include the following “surefire ways” to make a (heterosexual) man lose interest in you (a heterosexual woman):
- Debate with him
- Don’t bother dressing nicely for a date
- Overload your online dating profile
- Open up right away – about everything
- Pursue him
Hold up. Doesn’t Aish’s educational philosophy boast that, “Judaism is not all or nothing; it is a journey where every step counts, to be pursued according to one’s own pace and interest”? And doesn’t their didactic list of ways to conduct oneself not only seem antithetical to their educational philosophy, but also forget to include any aspect of Judaism whatsoever?
So, I put together my own list intended for both men and women. It is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a sure five ways to begin to build a healthy relationship.
1. Have an opinion. Having something to say and saying it well makes you an interesting person. Of course you do not have to have an opinion about everything, and not every conversation needs to be controversial. But being able to articulate yourself and the things that you care about is sexy. As long as you are able to listen to opposing opinions and consider their arguments, your intelligence and passion will shine through.
Alex, If you feel “emasculated” by your partner’s opinion, I think the problem is with you, and not her.
2. Feel Good, Look Good. If you feel good about yourself, you create an external glow and people see you better. Putting effort into going out- with your friends, your parents, or to work- makes you more excited about the way you present yourself to the world. Read this slowly: caring about how you look and conduct yourself is not a sin. Being your best self should be celebrated. But how you look and act when you go bowling may be different than when you go dancing. You know what your best self is, and no one can tell you which hairstyle or shoes makes you feel most confident other than you.
3. Check your Social Media. In this day and age, having an online presence is important, but make sure that what is viewable to the public (employers and future-dates alike) is what you want people who do not know you in real life to see. This means clean up your Facebook and Instagram. Update your LinkedIn. And be sure to check your Twitter feed after having a few too many drinks the night before. (This is basic stuff, people.)
I admit it, I’ve deleted posts and photos that a few years, months, and even hours later seem absolutely ridiculous to show to the world. Because, presenting your best self to the world (refer to number 3) is incredibly important. Everyone is Googleable and if you’re looking up your partner before a date, you better assume that they are doing the same.
4. Talk About It. We don’t live in a movie and there is no prescribed time to talk about any particular issue of your past or of your future. I’m not advocating that sharing your deepest darkest secrets over your first cup of coffee is going to be the most effective way to have a second date, but I’m also not advocating for censoring yourself because it’s “too soon.” When you feel it’s time to bring something up, then bring it up. Remember that while respect and trust need room to build, they also need something to build on.
5. Go for it. If you are interested in seeing someone, let them know. This line really gets me, “[men are] hard-wired to want to win a woman over. When a woman can’t relinquish her pursuit or appears too eager to have a relationship, a man can’t see her as special enough to go after and loses interest.” Not special enough? Excuse me while I go throw up.
We have a term for calling, tweeting, sending emails, Facebook chatting, and updating your blog hourly to get someone’s attention- bringing the crazy. But oftentimes letting someone know of your interest is a boost to their confidence- and yours! Do we really need a reminder that a relationship is comprised of two people, and no one has to call anyone back or go on a second date if they do not want to? Women and men both have the agency over their own lives to flirt, or stop flirting, at their own free will.
Apparently we did. So thank you, Aish, for reminding the internet that the following still needs to be repeated: healthy relationships are built on more than archaic gender roles plastered on modern day society. I suggest that you follow your own advice: people’s relationships with others and with Judaism are both journeys where every step counts and, yes, should both be pursued according to one’s individual pace and interest. Instead of belittling one of those relationships for another, create an educational system where the intersection of Judaism and relationships can be explored and developed.