Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Warning: unsubstantiated generalization follows UPDATED

The comment Amber quotes, about a Jewish man who dates "shiksas" but will only marry a Jew, reminded me of the converse side to that phenomenon: the neurosis that can accompany in-group dating. It's often suggested (by parents, say) that staying with one's own kind is simpler. I'm not entirely sure that's the case.

But let's back-track a moment. Speaking of fairly secular, Western heterosexuals generally, there's a certain assumption that women want to marry and men don't. While I have not found this to be the case with actual humans, there are certainly men who think it necessary to preface a relationship with a 'Hey, hey, nothing serious going on here,' even if they end up pleading for marriage and more.

So take that as a given. Now, whatever tendencies men have of thinking Woman wants a ring, and a big shiny one at that, regardless of what a particular woman desires, Jewish* men are far more likely to assume this of Jewish women. Both because of preconceived ideas about their female counterparts being JAPs, and for another, less offensive but also presumptuous reason: they assume Jewish women not only, as women, want marriage, but, as Jewish women, seek a Jewish husband. These men assume that a Jewish woman would only get involved with a Jewish man with intent to marry. These same men may or may not only date Jewish women, but either way, it doesn't matter. They know that for every reasonable-seeming Jewish man, there are 10,000,000,000 Jewish women in the Tri-State Area alone desperate to marry him. How do they know this? Pop culture, things their mothers told them to flatter them, who knows.

So where does all this lead? What it does is bring to the foreground of the relationship a question in the background of most: is this person the one for me? There's almost an implied engagement from the first date on. The stakes this high, things must either head towards marriage or collapse into a heap of neurosis. Or both.

* Maybe all this is true of other minorities in the West. Maybe not. Readers, decide for yourselves, but my anecdotal evidence lies where it does.


David Schraub points me to the interracial-dating discussion that continues at the Atlantic, between Coates and Jeffrey Goldberg. Reading it makes me all the more glad that this discussion is also taking place among female bloggers, and that I posted what I did above. Goldberg and Coates's take on the matter is very... male. In particular Goldberg's remark that he "felt sorry for the Jewish women who intermarried, because I sensed that they tried, and failed, to convince Jewish men that they weren't, in fact, their mothers, that they were intelligent and sexy and all the rest."

Goldberg should rest assured that plenty of Jewish women a) had their first relationships with non-Jewish guys, because that's who happened to be cute and around, yes, even in places like New York, and b) have been able to 'get' Jewish men (and even -- imagine -- reject them. Jewish women dumping perfectly good Jewish men, for the same reasons anyone ends a relationship with anyone else! Yes, it happens.), but for whatever reason the man they end up with turns out not to be Jewish.

Once we're on the subject of how black women and Jewish women are totally the same, how about black and Jewish men, both groups (or at least their representatives at the Atlantic) convinced that the women of their cohort fantasize about being their wives, while they, adventurous and worldly, dream of the exotic? Where oh where might such cultural beliefs come from, we shall never know.


FLG said...

Over the years I have heard from several Jewish women that they won't even bother to date non-Jewish men because they will not marry a non-Jewish man and therefore dating a non-Jewish man would be a complete waste of their time. I have heard this within the last few months at least twice. This demonstrates that at least some Jewish women do in fact want the ring and only from a Jewish man. What percentage this represents I do not know, but it seems non-trivial.

Phoebe said...

Looks like we've got a battle of the anecdotal evidence. I've met Jewish men who say the same as what your Jewish women have said, and who indeed behave according to this rule.

Of course, the real question here is one of observance. Observant Jews of both sexes behave the way you describe. Do you get the sense that the male equivalents-in-religiosity of the women you describe see things otherwise?

Petey said...

Goldberg is just an utter freak on all social topics. I believe that resolves all the tangles here.


This may be slightly tangential to the topic, but...

Perhaps I'm out of the ordinary, but I've managed to avoid prolonged contact with JAP's my entire life.

I've been exposed to them, found them completely uninteresting as dating partners, marriage partners, or casual conversationalists, and thus perhaps avoided being contaminated by the particular neuroses that are being discussed here.

The whole trick to life is avoiding spending time with people who think bling is attractive.


And more directly on the topic...

I would say that for the median Jew of marriageable age in 2008 in NYC, the Jewishness - or lack thereof - of their partner plays a pretty minor role in dating/marriage decisions.

Would we all agree on that?

Anonymous said...

Black women and Jewish women are NOT the same. Whatever the intermarriage statistics, a good number of Jewish women have the opportunity to marry Jewish men. If they don't marry Jewish men, they have a good opportunity to marry white men. Jewish men are high earners. Sociologically the sort of non-Jewish white man that a Jewish woman would marry would be a high-earner.

Black women have very little chance of marrying a high wage-earner.

There is a comparison - but it only shows how different black and Jewish women are in terms of marriage potential.

FLG said...

"Of course, the real question here is one of observance. Observant Jews of both sexes behave the way you describe. Do you get the sense that the male equivalents-in-religiosity of the women you describe see things otherwise?"

The ladies in question are almost elusively the temple on High Holy Days type, not Hasidic or anything. And I don't get any sense that males of equal religiosity rule out dating non-Jewish women. That being said, I DO get the sense that even if a lot of the men date non-Jewish women, they intend to marry Jewish women.

Phoebe said...

Petey: What with your pseudonomous existence, for all I know you've never dealt with JAPs due to a childhood spent in Papau New Guinea.

J.: Is your complaint with me, or with Coates/Goldberg? I don't think anyone said black and Jewish women are "the same" (OK, I did, but very clearly sarcastically, or so I thought) but that the situations are partially analogous. Since the situations of blacks and Jews in America in general is not identical, it's hard to see how just looking at the women, one would find the same scenarios.

FLG: So much of this really is anecdotal, both your comments and my posts on this. It seems neither of us has any idea whether more Jewish men or women date out/marry out. But in a way, the impressions are as informative as statistics might be.