Hag sameach this fine Simchat Torah day, and a Shavua Tov (a good week) to you! This is a special edition of “Ask Shuli,” responding to your terrific comments on my latest column, “Living in Sin After Yom Kippur?” As is my custom, I am out of town visiting family during the end of the fall chagim (holidays). Sorry I didn’t have a chance to respond to your great questions and comments during the week. Now I’m back, and ready to rumble!
“Living with a boyfriend may help you determine whether he is your bashert or not. That doesn’t mean that young folks should rush into moving in with a boyfriend/girlfriend (whether gay or straight) – breaking up and moving out after moving in can be pretty painful. But sometimes the old-fashioned advice is just that. Maybe it’s time to rewrite the playbook.”
Yep, I am old-fashioned. Except for the fact that I was raised in an interfaith and so-called “broken home.” I’m a big supporter of all sorts of relationships and families, be they married, partnered, with children and without. That’s between a person and his or her partner. What I emphasized in the original column is that if you’re in your 20s or 30s and you do WANT to marry your significant other, why would you live together without a ring on your finger? That’s what the engagement period is for — to explore each other’s foibles: emotional, physical and domestic. If you haven’t figured out that someone’s your bashert during the dating period (during which you slept over at each other’s domain most of the time, most likely) — no amount of cohabitation will you help you make that decision.
“Who’s to say that ‘(Almost) Living in Sin’ is a woman? The heterosexist presumption of this reply and the sexist nature of it at that is enough for me to stop reading this blog altogether.
Sorry, “(Almost) Living in Sin” wrote in as a young woman. If you have questions from a gay or lesbian point of view, I’d love to answer them! Of course, you should know that you’re asking someone who grew up in San Francisco, so I have a bit of a “flaming liberal” equality bias. So be warned. I also had a bit of an unhealthy addiction to “Queer as Folk” back in my 20s. Sort of like my recent addictions to “Sex and the City” and “The OC.” Now, I’m recording “Glee.” Wait, sorry… What were we talking about?
“As a father of two daughters (and a pre-dating son), I read Shuli’s advice about holding off for an engagement ring before living together with some bemusement. The passage in Shuli’s advice that really made me wince was the horrifically sexist cliche, ‘If a man can get the milk for free, why would he buy the cow?’ By repeating this dreadful line, Shuli implies several things:
* A woman’s value to a man is determined by the milk (i.e. sex) that she provides him.
* That sex isn’t a two-way street — after all, the cow doesn’t benefit from giving milk, so in this cliche: a man is the only one who gets pleasure from the ‘milk’ (aka sex)… To use your metaphor, the cow can still be milked even if you’re not living together. Let’s avoid the bovine metaphors — and recognize the many research studies that strongly suggest that men and women who live together before marriage (and often, before engagement) have a lower divorce rate.”
This comment was my favorite, and thank you for supplying more inspiration for my column, Paul! First, let me say that I don’t know what it’s like to be a father of two daughters. However, I am the obnoxious Jewish mother of two daughters (I pray that they elope or something like that!) and I did way more than my fair share of dating – with Jewish and non-Jewish suitors. I have a father and stepfather, and neither bothered to offer my suitors advice. Truth be told, it was my mother and stepmother who did the grilling. The man (bashert!) who finally passed muster had to face the gauntlet of the “women of my family,” plus my uncle, the rabbi. Oy vey.
For the (blog) record, my best friend’s father is a pain in the tuchus. He’s old-fashioned and gives her grief non-stop. AND he’s a Republican. Yikes. However, he’s like a second father to me, and I took that advice about the cow/milk to heart. He shepherded us through grade school, middle school (horrors), high school, college, law school, etc. He watched us make one ridiculous dating mistake after the other. Then, he gave my husband (while we were dating) the third degree, gave his blessing… and later danced at our wedding. He’s still lecturing his daughter (my best friend) about getting that ring on her finger. God willing, that will happen soon. I still think he’s right. Maybe I’ve been influenced by watching about two dozen girlfriends in their 20s and 30s make the same mistake: Moving in with their boyfriend before they’d made up their mind about tying the knot. It rarely works out. Or, maybe they didn’t want to get married anyway. Personally, I love being married. In my college years, I had significant doubts about the institution (see Paul’s comment above about the divorce rate), but I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Seven years in, I’m tickled to report to my fellow Gen X-ers (and Y, millenials, etc.) that marriage is way better than, say, shacking up without the ketubah.
As for the milk and the sex, puh-leeeez. Am I not correct that there are three main things that motivate a couple to fall in love –- that’s pheromones, physical attraction and, well, mating (aka pru u’revu) – and ultimately play house? Anyone who likes the movie “When Harry Met Sally…” agrees: “Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” (With a few exceptions, naturally.) By the way: When I said “milk,” I love that you immediately assumed I meant sex and only sex. Get your mind out of the gutter, Daddy-o! I was thinking about sex appeal, brains, comfort, willingness to put up with a partner’s bad habits, and bonus points for talent in cooking, home improvement or auto repair ;)-