I was running late with errands one day and made a “quick” dash into a supermarket to pick up essentials for dinner. While standing in line for checkout and wondering why the lines I choose never seem to move, I overheard the woman in front of me on her cell phone. From her part of the conversation, I could tell that this was one I wanted to hear play out. All of a sudden, I was hoping for the cashier to call for the manager or for a price check. [I wrote this article before social distancing and COVID-19. I held a few articles in reserve.]
From what I heard, the woman, whom I will refer to as Faigy, was speaking with her son or brother, whom I will refer to as Menachem (she looked mid-40s, so it could have been either) and the subject was shidduchim. From what I was able to gather, Menachem had dated someone, and things didn’t work out, but Menachem seemed hung up about it. Faigy was saying things like, “It wasn’t bashert for the two of you” and “That’s not who you are,” as well as other similar phrases. Oy, it was heartbreaking to (over)hear about another heartbreak. We have all been there.
Faigy then started to give Menachem what I can only describe as a pep talk. She told him that he was fine just the way he is, and he shouldn’t think that had he done this or that, the outcome would have been different. She was trying to convince him to not only move on, but to move on to a “girl” who will like him for him. From what I could tell, Menachem wanted Faigy to call the shadchan to explain that he has “changed” or that the girl may have gotten the wrong impression about him or something that he did (again, not so sure because I was eavesdropping on one side of a conversation). Faigy should say that the reasons why the girl stopped seeing Menachem don’t exist anymore, so there shouldn’t be an issue and to go out again. I know this because Faigy would say, “I’m not calling” and “I’m not saying that,” more than a couple of times.
I am not so concerned with being on or off base here, because a situation as I described (maybe not what actually happened with Menachem) has happened a million times, and one of those times was to me. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll say again very briefly: I broke things off with a fellow after the fifth date. About eight or nine months later, he called me to say that the reason why I stopped seeing him doesn’t exist anymore. He has made changes to his life, so that means that we can resume seeing each other. Ummmmm, I didn’t like the fellow and had given it a try because the first couple of dates were good, but then went south very quickly. I made up a reason to stop seeing him, instead of saying, “I didn’t like you.” I now had to remember what I had told him. But that is another story you all have heard. The fellow who called me, as many men and women (and possibly Menachem) have called others to say that “things have changed,” so that someone whom they once dated would date them again.
If you go through a metamorphosis and change aspects in your life because you were the one not happy with the way you were, then kol ha’kavod. Go ahead and change. But if you are making the changes just so someone else will like you, I ask, “Why?” I’ve said time and again that everyone has qualities that make him (or her) uniquely them and never let anyone dim your spark. Hashem made you as you are for a reason. Lose weight, get a haircut, dye your hair, or whatever you want to do, but to change the core of who you are for another person? Why would you do that? You would only have to try to keep up the facade, the “new you,” and that can be exhausting. You wouldn’t be living your true life. What does that mean in the long run that a specific person didn’t like you? It means that he/she wasn’t your bashert and to move on. Yes, he/she may have all the qualities you are looking for, plus is attractive and you’ve been in the parshah for years and this has been the best that you have gotten to date – so what if it means you have to change who you are. Yes, dating is very hard and can take a toll on anyone, but after going through the whole struggle of it, why “settle” for someone who doesn’t want to be with the real you. And settling is what you will be doing. You think you are actually with a great person who is everything you ever wanted, but they didn’t want you, so you are settling for someone who doesn’t want you instead of choosing and being chosen by someone who loves you for who you are and will love you as you deserved to be loved. Think about that for a minute – swirl that around in your head.
Do you hear how crazy that sounds?? What I’m hearing over social media is “Do You” – meaning, you be who you are. One of my new polo shirts has printed across the front: “Be You.” Nowhere is it saying, “Be Who ‘David/Phyllis’ wants” or “Do as he/she says.” If you want to change so much for someone else, someone you may not even know so well, because how long was each date and spread across the span of a few weeks? I didn’t let down my guard and be myself with someone until I thought things may have a possibility of working out and that wasn’t during the first date and only a few times during the second date. You don’t even know the person well and you’re already making changes so the person will like you? A deeper philosophical person, or maybe a better therapist than me, would ask, “Why is their approval and acceptance of who you are more important than your approval and acceptance of who you are, that you are willing to change for them?”
So I’m talking to all the Menachems and Menuchahs and Davids and Phyllises out there (but not to the one I dated, because I made up a reason for breaking up. But being the person that I am today and not ten years ago, I would have come right out from the beginning and said, “Sorry, it’s just not going to work.”). Like yourself before you ask someone else to like you (before you date). You must be secure in who you are before you ask someone to share a life with you. If you change too much for the wrong reasons, then who are you? Oh my goodness, I feel like I’m writing the ending to a John Hughes movie from the 1980s; cue the narrator and the music full of angst and redemption. Differences work; so if you’re worried about not being the same as the other person, don’t be. If both parties want to make it work, they will. If someone breaks up with you, you are entitled to feel bad and to mope, but why would you change? I don’t mean to sound preachy, but all of your mothers love you all just the way you are. Whenever I am about to make a choice that I know will affect certain aspects of my life, I always ask myself, What would my mother think – because if it’s the wrong choice or direction I was heading in, she’d say so and wouldn’t be afraid to call me out. Even when I dated the fellow who thought I dressed like a girl from Flatbush and so I tried wearing “plain clothes,” my mother looked and me and said, “So, you’re going to throw out all your clothes and start new for him? Don’t be ridiculous.” And she was right. I am sure you have great qualities that your bashert will love, so why are you changing for someone who is not your bashert? It wasn’t meant to be. Have a good cry, play a sad mix tape (do people still do that?), and then get back to life.
Hatzlachah to you all.
To read more articles and access past issues, please visit www.queensjewishlink.com.