Sunday, February 14, 2010

"'He’s 41, tall, cute, Jewish, smart.'"

-Yes, yes, and yes. All I'd add is that grad student TAs can sometimes look ambiguous age-wise, at least from certain angles, and that for this reason students should not assume all the trendily/shabbily-dressed 20-somethings on campus are your classmates.

-Speaking of which, my least practical purchase in ages, inspired by the chic women of Tribeca, with whom it's safe to say I'm never confused.

-My suspicion that the Lori Gottlieb Grand Theory of Male-Female Relations In the West Today is in fact about the 35-plus Jewish singles scene in a couple cities is confirmed by Gottlieb's description of the things a mysteriously still-single man has going for him: "'He’s 41, tall, cute, Jewish, smart.'" Is "Jewish" a trait that, like "tall," "cute," or "smart," is understood to make a man more desirable? (The "41" is presumably there not because men peak in some way at that age, but to show that he's been single since forever.) Aside from Jewish women who care about this, and some tiny but much-discussed subset of non-Jewish women who read one of those "shiksa-mensch" dating books, it seems like this quality would be neutral at best, and off-putting to the pious of other faiths and to the not-so-keen-on-Jews among women Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for a certain amount of Jewish parochialism. But only if it's self-aware, and if the focus is explicitly on only-Jews in a given context. Simply projecting a specifically Jewish experience - one relevant not even to all Jews or all American Jews, but to a particular culture-within-a-culture-within-a-culture - onto humanity, the coasts, or even the whole of the Upper West Side, doesn't quite work.

And, uh, I'd probably judge someone for declining tap water at a restaurant. It's anecdotes like the one at the beginning of that article that make me think Gottlieb's describing not the Jewish singles scene of New York or L.A., but a subset thereof considered generally undateable within that community.


Britta said...

Yeah, the more I read about Lori Gottleib (which has taken far more time and mental energy than she deserves), the more a psychotic b**** she and her friends seem. I mean, if you're going to be that superficial and judgmental, of course you're going to end up alone. How people like this get to write self help books is beyond me. I might write a book about how to make friends, it will include bits about not stealing money from people, verbally abusing them, or pushing them on the subway tracks in front of a train. The only accurate stuff she says is basically, "duh."

Jeff said...

I think Ms Gottlieb's Jewish comment was tailored to her audience that particular evening (dinner on the UES with a literary agent, a writer for the Times, and a media executive, it really does sound like a Woody Allen vignette).

Because I've suffered the 30s singles scene in Seattle for years (where Jews are spotted more frequently than Sasquatch, but not by much) and I think Ms Gottlieb's analysis is broadly accurate.

Britta said...

BTW, my comment addresses the "generally undatable" aspect of Gottleib and her friends, regardless of ethnic identity or religion, not the Jewish part.

Phoebe said...


True, being impossible makes it tough to get dates, or human companionship of any kind.


A so-very-New-York crowd could well be more receptive to that sort of Jewish in-joke. But there's something about the sort of woman Gottlieb seems to address that seems to very much come out of a particular scene, one in which the desperation levels are notoriously high, given a) the extra restriction that is requiring a partner from the same minority religion, b) the fact that Jewish men marry out more than Jewish women, making them a hot commodity for those Jewish women concerned with marrying in, and c) a culture that half-celebrates this neurosis, what with all the self-deprecation.

It's not that picky women who think they deserve The Best and then find themselves single at 40 are somehow particular to the Jewish community. It's just that, for the above reasons, the phenomenon Gottlieb describes seems particularly common - or just particularly discussed - in those circles.

Britta said...

I actually was thinking about this a few days ago, when I was re-watching an early SATC episode. In this episode, Carrie farts in front of Mr Big, freaks out when they don't have sex for three days, then barges into his house and has a hysterical breakdown when he doesn't stop watching the last 30 seconds of a sports competition to sleep with her *right now,* then sulks for days until Mr Big comes and apologizes. Watching the episode, I thought, jeez, what a high maintenance drama queen. No wonder Mr. Big got sick of the relationship--she acted insane, and then made him apologize for not putting up with her bullshit.
Anyways, the reason for the in depth analysis is that it really reminded me of Gottlieb's self-described behavior.

On TV, the antics of Carrie and her ilk always work out and indeed behind the show narrative created where we're supposed to valorize/sympathize with her behavior (although, at least in the beginning, I thought SATC did a good job in keeping a critical eye of its characters, but that faded as the show went on, and was completely gone by the movie). It is, of course, just television, but popular media can have a profound, if subtle affect on people's attitudes in real life as well. This also stuck out to me because in Gottlieb's article, SATC, along with Friends, are frequently cited as examples to prove her point. It struck me as odd that a grown women would be unable to distinguish fiction from real life, but I wonder to what extent our collective minds have been subtly corrupted by these fictional narratives found in women's TV shows and rom coms that we are constantly bombarded with? The neurotic protagonist always comes up with increasingly difficult tests, and Mr. Right always makes a huge sacrifice at the end to prove how much he loves her, regardless of all her faults.

There's something to be said for unconditional love, but it shouldn't have to take the form of one person being impossible and the other person always buckling. Maybe the real takeaway lesson is, you can model your life off of TV/movies, but in real life Mr Big isn't going to fly to Paris to rescue you? Throw away your television, before it ruins your life?

Matt said...

I like the hat. I've long wanted to be a hat person, but I always shy away from buying one on the grounds that I just feel a bit too much like a hat poser trying to be a hat person when I try one on. Maybe someday.

Phoebe said...


SATC is an evil influence, both evil and shockingly influential. But I miss TV and wish I weren't too cheap to pay for cable.


Thanks! I always imagine I look like I'm trying too hard/dressing like someone else in anything other than a solid white, gray, or black t-shirt; jeans or corduroys; and black boots or ballet flats. The hat allows me to keep the uniform, but to try at bit at the same time.

Tim said...

Oddly, when I dated Lori Gottlieb in 1999, she threw a fit when I suggested that I was considering ordering sashimi instead of sushi in honor of the second night of Pesach, and insisted that I order full-fledged sushi to demonstrate that I was not one of those Jews who actually observed Passover.

-- Tim
41, single, tallish, Jewish, and cute for sufficiently broad definitions of cute

Phoebe said...

Tim Gottlieb-ex-mentioned-on-Jezebel Tim?

I'm not sure how this anecdote is odd in this context - the Jewish singles scene I'm thinking of isn't primarily about religious observance, but more about Jews who aren't so pious as to have been paired off young by their families, but who for whatever reason think they ought to have Jewish spouses, sifting through an ever-smaller pool of potential mates.