Noah E Abramowitz
ואף על פי כן, נוע תנוע

Shovavim Today: Loneliness and Being Alone

So, we can’t fix the complexities of modern sexuality by getting married young.  It just doesn’t work anymore.  If you’re wondering to what I’m referring, see the first blog.  I’m gonna move away from the point of ritual difficulties, because this week we talk about something which the sages describe as difficult as what appears in this week’s Sedra, the splitting of the sea.

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match.

Send me a million notifications, here and there and everywhere, from folks with whom I haven’t spoken in years about folks with whom they still haven’t spoken, a wave of letters and numbers, words and pictures which are meant to convince me that this person is the way to fix myself and my life, and absolve myself of that inherent ill of the single specimen of our species: Loneliness.

Y’all look at single folks like there’s something wrong with us.  We must be diseased or something, the way some people talk to us and act around us.  Us, obviously, being the opposite of what they are.  Happy, married, whole, fulfilled.

But there are a few other things which go together.  The feeling that singles are less mature, the feeling that singles have less going on about them, that we are still kids, while all the rest of the adults can talk business, life, and God knows what, we sit at the Singles table/the kids table, however you want to call it, it’s how it feels.

There is an odd space here, somewhere between “please help me” and “please shut up”.  I’m not sure the singles or those who aren’t know how to navigate it.  We aren’t as happy as we might be if someone came and swept us off our feet, but we also don’t appreciate being seen as damaged goods.  A few words not to use when talking to singles:

  • You’re not getting any younger
  • It’s not going to get any easier
  • Why can’t you be
    • more open minded?
    • less picky?
    • less shallow?
  • I’m just looking out for you.
  • It couldn’t hurt.

Let’s just drop all these things here because, well, as a man with no biological clock, I can imagine people look at me a bit less like a timebomb.  But the fact that they look at anyone like that is tragic.  It’s not gonna get any easier? Well thanks, God.  Why can’t you be more…stop right there.  It’s a bit of a backwards way of saying, could you be less yourself?   But the last two points are the most complicated.

It couldn’t hurt.  I mean, it costs at the least money and at the most emotional investment I’ve too often felt wasted on endeavors which were less successful, why should this be any different?   But more than that, it can hurt.  It hurts to go on the never-ending-date-o-coaster and still not have found anyone.  I haven’t been on nearly as many dates as some of my friends and yet, I’m sick of it.  Genuinely.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to be my friends who always had twice, three times as many dates as I did.

COVID-19 has not done wonders for the world of dating, though it has forced us to be creative.  Never would I have thought of taking someone home for barramundi on a second date.  And to plate that business up like Gordon Ramsay, might I add.  But it’s unreasonable to want the whole apartment to yourself, so roommates have been present on dates I’ve had over.  Romantic, naw?  Dating sucks, now more than ever.  It really does and sometimes it hurts more at the end of a date because you know it didn’t go well, and it hasn’t gone well.  If it had, well, you’d be married now.

And last. It’s hard to say no to your friends when every time they come to you with a suggestion, it’s not from a place of anything but: I love you, I care, and I want you to be happy.  Because we know it’s true.  I told the woman who married my best friend, a few weeks before their wedding, that she was now to be my favorite person in the world; because of her, my best friend would be happy forever, and how could that not be the best thing in the world?  I know people mean well.  They do.  It’s their way of saying they care, showing concern, and giving you their love.  Isn’t a partner in crime the best gift a person could find for you?   My best friend got this best gift of his from another great friend in our circle.  That woman is an angel.  She did God’s work in that action.

And yet, there’s something there which is still hard, because you might think otherwise, you might not feel it, and that’s fine too.  But when it’s an act of love which brought it about, pressure from someone who cares, even if you didn’t feel it 100%, you find yourself selling your emotional stock short ala Gamestop.  And that means you need to just tread easy.  Both parties.

And on this line, I will say the following.

Ever since He made the Earth, God has been making matches, and making matches is as difficult as the Splitting of the Sea.  Those who make matches are doing God’s work.  They are God’s partners in the creation of the Earth.  But they are also the vehicles of miracles.  And in every splitting of the sea, not everyone crosses.  The sea splits for some, and the rest stay behind waiting for their turn for the waters to stop for them.

There needs to be a change in the conversation, and I, as in so many cases, don’t know to where it must go.

I am the Kal.  I’m 25.  Many of my friends are the Chomer.  You have many friends who are the Chomer.  They need to take priority over me, if you’re thinking about matches.  And if you’re not, that’s fine as well.  And if you’re thinking of me, give me space to tell you I’m not down now, or I need time to think, or I am not interested.  And remember, we were friends before you started making matches for me, and I know we will be after.  So don’t just reach out when we haven’t spoken in a long time.  All the same, I appreciate every single offer I get from my friends, because it’s a gift.  It’s a way to say “I care”.  And I love you for it.  The problem with this gift is you can’t return it without the giver knowing it.  And that’s fine too.

And if the community begins to look at singles as a reality, someone who is present, and not just someone who isn’t something else yet, then we will be able to more accurately address issues of Halakha and Hashkafa regarding sexual ethic, as well as community membership and structure.  Until the single, as they are, is part of the community in the same sense as someone who no longer is, we will see these issues unresolved.  Dr. Dror Bondi once said in a class I attended that Halakha doesn’t know what to do with single people because they are a new reality.  I think if we stop looking at people as single the same way we don’t necessarily think first of people’s hair color when someone says their name (besides the gingers, duh), we will not abandon the want to help our friends, but perhaps help them in another way.  Singlehood hurts, it sucks, but as I said in a poetry slam, a missing rib not a broken bone.  There’s no prognosis on it, and no one knows a surefire cure.

One thing which keeps me going is knowing that in lack of a cure, there is genuine care.  There are people who ask.  Though I want to be myself and my own person, it is not good for man to be alone.  Not without a partner in life, and not without people who care.  But understand when the other side needs another form of care.  And that’s how we’ll get to a healthier conversation about singlehood and relationships, and accepting people as who they are.  I’m not complete yet, but I’m a whole entity regardless.

A popular song says that Mom said all the boys are the same, but she didn’t know Yonatan Shapira.  Either because if she knew Yonatan Shapira, she would have set me up with him, or because Yonatan Shapira isn’t like the other boys.  I don’t know Yonatan Shapira, but I’ll keep an eye out for my friends’ Yonatan Shapira.

Did I get to the bottom of anything here?  No.  But as I said, it’s a weird place.  I can’t imagine crossing the sea was easy to do, and it can’t have been an easy sight to sea.  A bit of that shock and uncertainty is still here.  You can’t expect someone who doesn’t remember what the rib felt like to have an easy time putting it back.  But you can put a little less pressure on them during surgery.

More next week.

(The period between the beginning of Sefer Shemot, the book of Exodus, and the giving of the law, the Brit, the covenant with the people, not in Yitro but in Mishpatim, is known as Shovavim, the initials of the first six Sedrot of the book.  It means “wayward ones” and is considered auspicious for learning about the sanctity of sexuality, and the importance of the preservation of various customs regarding this sanctity.  I figured I might as well voice some thoughts on the matter, not from a Halakhic perspective (I am not a Rabbi or an authority by any other means) but rather from a perspective based on experiences and reflections.  What I will express here says nothing about Halakha, unless otherwise stated.  All should consult relevant authorities if this is important to them.  I can provide direction or opinions, but not rulings.)

About the Author
Noah E Abramowitz, a diehard O's fan, aspires to be the next Uri Orbach, and enjoys freshly picked dates, black gritty coffee, and brewing and mixing quality drinks with friends. On Wednesdays We Wear Pink.
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