A few weeks ago, some of you may remember a letter I published from Nechama (fake name). She had been dating Avi (fake name, as well) for a while and then things hit the skids – as in: stopped. Nechama had thought it was because of a medical condition she and some of her immediate and extended family members have: spherocytosis. I was right about the diagnosis! Nechama revealed her identity to me the week the article was published. She said that she had no idea that I knew what it was, and now she felt as though she can speak freely about it because of my family history with it. Not that there is anything to hide or be ashamed of with spherocytosis, but I never guessed Nechama or her family had a history of it.
Nechama and I spoke. It turns out that even before the article was published, the shadchan had called her to say that Avi had reevaluated the situation and wanted to try going out again. Nechama said that she wanted to get to the bottom of this and did not want to get her hopes up but was feeling optimistic. I’ll make a long story very short: As I type this, with Nechama’s permission, she is sitting on her bedroom floor in tears. No, it did not end well. In short: She and Avi met and spoke for close to two hours about the spherocytosis and about other mundane issues. She said it felt natural. She asked him to be honest with her and all the others things you can imagine. At the end of the “date,” Nechama said she thought things went well. So well, in fact, that she and Avi went out three more times on long dates – dates that lasted five-to-seven hours, spending most of the afternoon and into the evening together. It hurts to even type this, but Nechama said that she was beginning to feel very comfortable with Avi. But that feeling vanished as of almost an hour ago, because that’s when Avi called her (this time) to tell Nechama that she wasn’t “transparent enough” – she actually said that Avi said that! I wrote about that in my response to her, stating that I applauded her and her family for being so transparent with shadchanim. She continued on to say that Avi felt that she was holding back and wouldn’t debate him when she disagreed with him or be open about her true feelings about things. I listened to Nechama. She needed an ear, she needed to vent, she needed a friend – and we are friends.
I listened but I rolled my eyes a few times. What if Nechama shared the same views and opinions as Avi did on the specific topics they spoke of? I know Nechama; she’s not a “yes girl.” If she truly disagreed with something, she would say so. But what if they didn’t speak about topics they differ on? What if they spoke about politics and had the same views? What if they spoke about how unfair it is that poachers kill animals just for their tusks, horns, or fins; who would disagree with that? Isn’t it nice to be married to someone with whom you can have a nice conversation and not always argue or have a heated debate with all the time?
He actually used the word “transparent” with Nechama. I know why I used the word in my response: I’ve been hearing it in the news recently and it seemed to fit the situation. But Avi using that word with Nechama? It sounds like a little boy trying to sound and act like a big boy. I absolutely hate when people want others to open up to them about their entire lives when they just met – especially on dates. This is not when I used to say that a shadchan would tell me that I had to get to know my date in order for me to see his true personality. I only wanted to be able to have a conversation with the person I was out with; I didn’t need him to tell me why he never went back to sleepaway camp after the age of 12, or why he cringes every time he smells apple pie because it evokes a bad childhood memory. I only wanted to talk to the man. But now people want to know all about you in the first few dates?
I’m sure Nechama has done as all singles do: Share cute stories about family, vacations, friends, discussed likes about food or seasons, discussed hashkafah. But to lay everything out on the table for someone that you have known for a few weeks is absurd. It goes against everything we are told in today’s world and what our parents taught us: “Don’t talk to strangers, don’t tell them anything that they can use against you or target...” I asked Nechama if she knew what Avi was referring to with “being more open and not holding back”; she said he used those words. But Nechama said that she couldn’t think of anything. She told him her opinions, how she feels about issues as well as people. They spoke about family, and what each wants out of life.
As a person, not as a therapist, I hate when people tell others, “You have walls up. Let me in.” First of all, you don’t know all the other person has experienced to ask for entry. Second, even if you do know all about that person, sometimes they don’t want to relive the pain, so they put a wall up to block it in order for them to be able to go on with normal everyday life. (I am not at all referring to someone who experienced a trauma or an injury. That is a different issue altogether.) If Nechama and Avi had been going out for six months and he still felt as though she wasn’t letting her true self be seen and was holding back, then yes, I can understand if he would ask such a question. Of course, I wouldn’t say, “Let me in.” I’d ask why the walls were still up if she has been comfortable enough to date me for six months, and how I can help her let down the wall. But that’s me and we aren’t here to discuss me.
I didn’t tell Nechama this, but she will read it now: I think Avi has some nerve asking you to be more honest and lay out your entire life to him when you had begun doing that the first time around and he stopped seeing you. And I don’t care how conflicted he was or how many times he spoke with your doctor or a rebbe! Anyone would be a fool not to take precautions because they don’t want to get hurt again. But to say that you weren’t transparent and were not debating him because you didn’t show your true self? Don’t even get me started.
The last point I will write about is something that Nechama and I did speak about. It turns out that this time, when Avi ended things, he never once mentioned the spherocytosis. So, the first time around he was so conflicted about it. His parents spoke with your doctor twice, a rav was consulted. Now, it has nothing to do with the diagnosis. Avi’s explanation and reasoning is: You aren’t opening up (or however he wanted to phrase it). Maybe the reason is, as I wrote in another article, that Avi doesn’t know what he wants yet.
Nachama, I will tell you now as I told you then – and because this article will be published a few weeks from now, you will be able to read and hear my words – do not let Avi live in your head for too long. It wasn’t meant to be. He said no for whatever reason he came up with. Personally, I don’t think Avi even knows what he wants or is looking for. Be upset. Take a day or two, but move on. You are young and have much to offer. I hope by the time you read this, you have gone out with another young man (or two!). Like the song in South Pacific, “Wash that man right out of your hair.”
Hatzlachah to you all!