Wednesday, February 16, 2005

An Open Letter to Men Who are Married, Engaged, or Seeing Someone

Dear Gentlemen Who Are Taken,

Since I wish to believe that you, my dear male readers, are sensitive people who do not wish to hurt others, I’m offering a bit of unsolicited but often much-needed advice.

You can file this under “How Not To Humiliate Yourself, Your Wife/Girlfriend, or Some Poor, Unsuspecting Single Woman."

We will study my suggestions along with two examples, out of many many, that I've just now made up . . . . off the top of my head. I have never been in any of the following situations! No, of course not. They are hypothetical. Really. No really.

Suggestion #1: DO avoid protracted conversations with a single woman other than your wife/girlfriend, particularly conversations that involve a lot of eye-contact, laughing, or emotional soul-baring. (Exceptions exist, such as: If one of your wife’s single friends, who obviously knows that you are married because you are married to her friend, comes to you for dating advice, that’s fine.)

Suggestion #2: If you must speak with a single woman at length, DO say something – at the beginning of the conversation – to indicate that you are taken. For example, DO say “that’s a nice sweater. My girlfriend has the same one” (even if she doesn’t) or “You have a good point. I was just talking with my girlfriend about that the other day” (even if you weren’t). DO NOT wait until the end of the conversation to say such a thing.

Suggestion #3: If you have been dating your girlfriend for only a short while and aren’t sure you want to proclaim that you are taken, see suggestion #1.

Example A: If you are, say, a new graduate student at Columbia University, and you are practically engaged . . . and if, during your first Shabbat on campus you meet, say, a senior at Barnard College (ie, not your girlfriend) . . . DO NOT stand around talking with her for an entire seudat shlishit, giving her no indication that you are very very taken.

DO NOT sit with her on the side of the room while everyone else pulls their chairs into the middle of the room to sing. DO NOT continue talking to her, looking her in the eye and laughing together, until it’s time for ma’ariv.

If you have failed to communicate to the Barnard student that you are going to get engaged to someone else within a few weeks . . . DO NOT - I repeat, DO NOT- when you see her 2 days later at davening, wait for her to finish davening, approach her when she exits the shule, and tell her that you’d like to walk her home, even though there is absolutely no danger to her and you live in the opposite direction. DO NOT then stand with her outside her dorm building for 30 minutes, looking her in the eye and laughing and talking.

If you do these things, first, the Barnard senior will find out from one of her friends that you are practically engaged, and she will feel confused and disappointed. And then, when she bumps into you on the street a week later, she will take you to task, because she is an angry Barnard woman and has not yet reached the zen state of her thirties. She will ask you whether it’s occured to you how your girlfriend would feel if she knew that you, her almost-fiancee, had chatted up another girl for hours and walked her home. The Barnard senior will tell you that it’s just as well you aren’t available, because she wouldn’t want to date someone who would flirt with another girl like that when you are practically engaged. And you will mumble that the Barnard senior is right, and that you shouldn’t have led her on. And you will slink away.

And then you will get engaged to your girlfriend, and never see the Barnard senior again. You’ll forget all about it. But she will not.

I'm just saying.

Suggestion #4: If you are married, for God’s sake, man, DO wear a wedding ring!

Suggestion #5: If you are married and for whatever reason do not wear a wedding ring, DO refer to suggestions #1 and #2.

Example B: If you are married and you don’t wear a wedding ring . . . if you, say, are in your mid-30’s and have been married for about 8 years and have 3 children . . . and if your wife goes away to visit her parents for a week and takes the kids with her . . . and if you are invited by a family for Shabbat lunch so you won’t be alone . . . and at the meal are three single women in their mid or late 20’s . . . then, when people are going around introducing themselves, at the beginning of the meal, DO say “it’s nice to meet you. Normally I’d be here with my wife, but she’s in Florida visiting my in-laws.”

DO NOT wait until after bentching to mention that you have a wife and three children. If you wait until the end of the meal, then on their way home the three single women will talk about how humiliated they all feel, because all three had been thinking that they’d like to date you. And they will feel like fools.


If you are taken, and if you are talking to a single woman without your wife/girlfriend around, DO assume that the single woman is looking for a date, and DO communicate in clear, simple words that you are not available. DO it early in the conversation. DO mention your wife/girlfriend, often. Absolutely DO NOT flirt with other women. DO NOT lead them on. DO NOT pretend to be clueless; Chayyei Sarah has just given you a clue.

Not that I’m a victim of such a thing.

I’m just saying.

Sincerely NOT Yours,

P.S. Readers of both genders are welcome to add their own suggestions or examples regarding their "taken" counterparts . . . but please keep everything clean, at least minimally respectful, and devoid of any identifying information of guilty parties.

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