SN: You can talk―we all talk about this with our friends, but can’t openly talk about it with each other.
BA: What are we even talking about?
SN: Well, we’re really just opening up a can of worms with topics regarding boys, pressures on girls in our society―but more specifically in our community.
To relate the conversation to us, I feel like now you and I are “of age.” What does it mean to be “of age”?
BA: Okay, I have a lot to say about that but before we delve into this kind of discussion I think we have to get our topic straight. This conversation is circled around and toying with topics we feel like we can’t discuss openly or honestly.
BA: I feel like this conversation is talked about openly though. Like you hear Rabbi Haber speaking about pressure for women and men in our community. I remember in September I was listening to one of his tapes and he was saying how labor day is the worst day of the year for SY mothers―totally paraphrasing this by the way―because like if the girl doesn’t find her Nasib or whatever in the summer she’s doomed for the rest of the year because that is prime time to meet somebody. Which is totally absurd, but we can talk about SY mothers and stuff a different time.
SN: Okay so let’s harp on that. Dating, marriage, etc.
I feel like there’s this common occurrence where girls say, “ I don’t want a boyfriend,” but then you see and hear of different girls getting engaged suddenly you feel―
BA: Like you want to get married!
SN: Yeah. It’s so funny because we always spoke about this―I told you I didn’t want a boyfriend and I never even thought about marriage and all of a sudden I have one and it’s like yeah…that dream I told you I had the other day….
BA: I feel like that happens to everyone who says they don’t want a boyfriend and don’t think about marriage. I remember in the summer I told my parents I don’t want to start dating till I’m 22 because that’s when I’ll be done with college and have a job lined up for me hopefully and so they always joke about 22―but then I started dating someone and I’m like shoot what if this works out for real then my whole plan to get married after 22 is totally down the drain. Like I was frightened. Which is weird. I mean it didn’t work out but I came to the conclusion if you meet someone before then, before you think you’re ready, like if they just come along and you fall for them you can’t help that.
SN: Literally a year ago, because I was still in high school, the pressures you hear about, were simply what I heard about. Pressures to date seriously or get married were foreign concepts to me. While some might feel these pressures in high school, it really all depends on your social circle and parents. But I wasn’t being pressured by either. I was dating this guy and so in love with him but never once thought about marriage in a serious sense. We broke up during the year, but it was then, that summer before college, when we were thinking about getting back together, that suddenly whether we were dating for marriage was a main issue we thought we were dealing with.
BA: Do you think it comes or stems from you personally or do you think that way of thinking is embedded in you, that "this is the age" where you should be thinking about that?
SN: Oh, it’s embedded in us! Because my parents never raised me to worry or be concerned about marriage.
BA: Mine either! Mine are not like that at all. They’re never like, “ You need to get married, you need to date.” They know I am not concerned about that right now, it’s my choice. It’s also interesting, thinking about it, that none of my friends are dating seriously (laughs) none of them.
SN: All my friends are dating and I feel so bad because a good friend in our circle is open about how she feels pressure. She doesn’t even want a boyfriend but just she tells me she feels pressure to date for marriage, like "I don’t even want a boyfriend where I’m at right now but sometimes I feel like I need one".
But something I have to ask, is that pressure of a boyfriend specific to the community? I think the community pressures you to date seriously. But outside the community there is pressure to date in general too. I have another friend who is Jewish but who is not so involved in the community. We went to a Saturday thing and she didn’t care what she was wearing and I told her, “God Bless you! I'm stressed right now.” On the other hand, she begs me to set her up with someone.
BA: I think wanting a boyfriend is a secular thing like I hear people―
SN: Wait so we’re totally crossing “wanting a boyfriend” out as a pressure.
BA: Yeah, it’s a pressure, just not community specific. Wanting a boyfriend is generally universal so it's not a pressure, although I would feel pressure to find a boyfriend if all of my friends were dating and thinking marriage.
SN: But even though none of your friends are dating you said you feel pressured. If not to have a boyfriend…what might that pressure be? You're contracting yourself.
BA: No, I do feel pressure in general.
SN: So it doesn’t come from your parents and it doesn’t come from your friends. So where does it come from?
BA: Whoa that’s so weird.
SN: I mean I feel pressure but all of my friend’s are seriously dating.
BA: I’m not at all worried I’m not going to find anyone, like I know some girls are like what if there’s no guy out there for me, and I’m very content being single I’m not even looking to date anyone I can’t imagine being in a relationship right now. But I still feel pressure. I can’t pinpoint the pressure I just feel it.
You know what I like about this topic. Okay, so there’s a stigma that comes along with wanting to get married young. We frown upon it.
SN: I hate that!!! Why can’t I want to get married?
BA: Why can’t you want it? Why is it so shameful? The last person I dated I always told myself- I think we even spoke about this once- how marriage is totally not on my mind. Like “whoa gasp I’m nowhere near that,” but then in the back of my head it obviously crossed my mind.
SN: I bug out the same way when I deal with that. But once I realized I do think about it, I've called myself on my own bluff, and find I am more open to admitting it out loud.
BA: Why is it bad to want to be with someone for the rest of your life at our age? You know why? Because it goes back to what I was saying before how I wanted to wait till 22. Once we “surrender” to wanting marriage you feel like you won’t do all these other things you want to do.
SN: Okay but why can’t you admit to wanting married life but also stay motivated not to become the stereotype of someone who gets married and doesn’t do the things they wanted to do? Why is there a stereotype? Is everyone like that? Do all these women really do nothing else besides their daily marital duties in their lives? I think the pressure―to come full circle―and the stigma of wanting a boyfriend or wanting your relationship to be serious, derives from those kinds of girls who only want that. When we see girls whose only goal in life is to get married we get defensive when people think that’s our motive to want to to get married at this age. And because we want don’t want to be associated in that light, there’s a stigma for wanting to get married.
BA: What do you mean?
SN: Girls like “us” are less open about it. We both just admitted we’re scared to admit our own desires to ourselves, let alone each other.
BA: You’re right. I’m very defensive about it.
SN: Girls who embrace that they want to get married, “those type of girls,” that we collectively don’t want to become, perpetrate the stigma of not wanting to admit that desire of getting married. But, they also embrace it as their lives and it’s that with which we want to avoid.
BA: You know what else is crazy? There’s pressure once you get married too. People who are married tell me they feel pressured to do something beyond their like marital duties. I think that’s one reason why thinking about marriage frightens me so much because I don’t want to fall into the stereotype of “not doing anything” once you’re married. I have too much ambition to fall into that and I don’t want marriage to change my plans.
SN: I see what you’re saying but I don’t really relate because in that sense, I know that I will not feel that pressure. I know that once I get married I want that stereotype to become me, I want to be a mother and to me, a mother is a full time job.
BA: I agree. Sheryl Sandberg wrote in her book , Lean In, that she really reveres mothers because a stay at home mom is a full time job.
SN: Your single years are to discover things about who you are, and then fully embracing who you are, enter marriage. Not to say that you won't grow in your married life as an individual, but to take on life with someone else, you have to have a pretty clear understanding of yourself and where you envision yourself going with them.
BA: Why can’t you accomplish things when you are married though, based on what you're saying?
SN: To avoid the question, why do we have to be more than that? For generations before us, women didn’t work. And why is that a negative thing? Why are the larger statistics of women in the work force now such an amazing feat?
BA: A feminist would probably say right now how women fought so hard to be able to get the rights that they did, for what? To have women not work?
SN: Okay so now, to answer your question I earlier avoided. When I said that marriage and children and motherhood are full time jobs that I someday want, I needed to clarified that they are not jobs you start all at once under the Chuppah. I would hope not. Truthfully I would get married and continue college until I graduate, and pursue a career. So when I’m married AND I’m a mother, I simply hope that I have accomplished great things as an individual because the hours at the jobs I admit I want don't leave much room for the undertaking of great personal conquests. As an 18 year old girl, right now, I am focused along different lines.
BA: You’re right to think that. But, I look down at people who only want the stereotype although I shouldn’t.
SN: I’m totally embracing the fact that I might become like that, and I hate my future self already for that potential. I just hope I accomplish great things. Before or in marriage.
BA: By the way, we’re totally talking openly right now to each other. So when we say we can’t talk about it openly, we’re talking about boys we date. We’re afraid to mention seriousness to them, afraid we’ll scare them off? I was talking to one of my friends he brother is like 24 and he’s young. I think that’s young. Also don’t forget boys at a certain point get pressured to date too! But anyways, this guy is scared to date apparently because he’s just looking for something casual and thinks every girl is looking for something serious. So he’s completely avoiding dating. At first I was like, what? But then I thought, no he’s right. There’s no such thing as a girl in our community over 20 who doesn’t date and think, “okay, this could lead to marriage.”
SN: Again to take it back to the secular world that transcends beyond the community, my college friend is telling me how whenever she and her boyfriend go anywhere they get jokes like, “where is the ring?” and “when is the wedding.” Mind you she is 18, not Jewish, certainly not part of the community and faces similar questions.
BA: I don’t think that’s pressure; people say that to be cute I don’t know. But I do agree on being in love at 18. It doesn’t matter where you come from, love is love. If you meet you love at 18 you could marry them. High school sweethearts isn’t a term coined by the Syrian community.
SN: Pressure man.
BA: Under pressure…
SN: Don’t even.