Thursday, November 20, 2008

Needing Help Distinguishing

In reading Bad4's post on how she continuously gets 'red' (suggested) shidduchim based on her sterling qualities of being different than the norm, (what is normal, anyway?) I started thinking.

I'm constantly being asked to look for shidduchim (as if the fact I have a ring on my finger makes me some kinda expert - um, newlywed, that should say how much experience I have!) and when I try to make a shidduch, the guys ask- what makes this girl different from all the other girls? (I can just hear the Pesach tunes coming, and it's not even Chanukah.)

Is difference good? Or is it bad? How do we make someone stand out without being different, or make some one different seem the norm? I think these labels (kickback to ProfK- and her posts on Terms for Shidduchim- sorry, couldn't link) are starting to get confusing.

In Israel- people have differences. And they are recognized for them. Brisk vrs. Mir, Yashan/Chadash/Sniff/Whatever, neighborhood, hair covering, religious status, kippah covering, you name it- everyone has differences. What's so bad about that? It helps me a ton, in being able to describe people past the general qualities that I believe everyone has- kind, sweet, nice, middos, mentch.....

Labels are horrible- I get that. (Stereotyping, no clear definition, molds....) But what do I do when I get asked that Pesach question again?

How do I describe differences without resorting to labels?
Any comments out there would be much appreciated- for all of my friends who are single, special and different from each other, and for all the guys out there who are single, special, and different from each other.


daughtersintheparsha said...

I think we have become obsessed with using the term "different" "original" and "out of the box" to the point where we are all out of the box- which means we are all the same, again, just in a bigger all encompassing box.

if you have to explain and talk about something...

nmf #7 said...

That is true- just again, my question was how do I define those differences (that make us the same) without resorting to labels, or without resorting to making everyone look the same anyway. There must be a way...

Bas~Melech said...

I don't have anything against labels themselves. They have their use at the right occasion. The problem arises when people abuse the labels, categorizing people by their labels and refusing to see their individuality.

nmf #7 said...

Bas~melech- so you don't mind when people describe you using classic euphemisims?
Ex: cute, aidel, kind, chesedik,introverted, shy....
Or the larger ones to describe religiousity- MO, O, BT, FFB, yeshivish, litvish, out of the box yeshivish, chassidic....

nmf #7 said...

But it's very true- everyone is an individual, and no one should ignore that fact- that even with labels, everyone is VERY different. Thanks, Bas~melech

Bas~Melech said...

First of all, there's a difference between euphimisms and stereotypes (I include "labels" as the latter). I don't like euphimisms because everyone knows exactly what they mean, and as a result you can put TWO perfectly good words out of business (one: what you meant; two: what you said, which now means something different)

Stereotypes, on the other hand, are quite useful. Consider this: When encountering someone for the first time, you cannot possibly know their entire personality and history at once. Therefore, whether you are aware of it or not, you instantly fit the person into an existing, matching stereotype so that you know how to interact with them. As you get to know more about the person, you will adjust your behavior and opinion of them accordingly. To do anything different would be ridiculous.

For example, you meet a person with wrinkled skin and white hair. You label them "old." On that basis, you may assume that they have more traditional expectations of your etiquette, so you speak and behave more formally. You probably also speak a bit louder, and bandy about fewer technological/modern terms in your conversation.
Now for step two: The individual you have met takes out a cell phone to answer a text message.
A person who is glued to their stereotype would say to herself, "Eh, she can't really know what she's doing. Poor old thing probably can't even read the text," and may offer some unsolicited assistance.
You, on the other hand, would revise your image of the person you just met, realizing they are more "with-it" than you may have originally assumed. You may begin taking more liberties in your conversation.

This happens a lot in school. It's the first day of class and the teacher can already pick out the troublemakers, goody-goodies, bright kids and slower ones in the class. She may use this information to keep an extra eye on the potential problem children and suchlike.
The evil teacher is married to these first impressions. She interprets everything based on them. When she hears noise behind her back, she glares at her "troublemakers," but if a "goody-goody" goes wrong she tells them it must have been a mistake and gives them a second chance, because she "knows" they won't do it again. When the "bright kids" ask questions, she assumes they can figure it out, but when the "slower kids" ask about something, she says, "Don't worry about that" with a patronizing look.
The good teacher uses her first impressions to send up red flags for future research, and keeps her eyes open for additional clues to help her understand her students' needs.


nmf #7 said...

Bas~melech- Interesting points.

Therefore, whether you are aware of it or not, you instantly fit the person into an existing, matching stereotype so that you know how to interact with them. As you get to know more about the person, you will adjust your behavior and opinion of them accordingly.

That's very true, and very well explained. Now, let's say that a day after you met this person, you were asked about them for a shidduch. Should you use your stereotype information? Or should you try to find out more- try to figure out who they really are, before giving information...

When I try to give information about shidduchim, sometimes I end up resorting to using stereotypes- i.e. labels- because that is all I know about the person, from what I've seen. I try to find out more- but more often than not, the stereotypes creep in.

How do I avoid that? How do I avoid boxing someone in, if that is all I know about them? How can I, just one person, describe all the aspects of a person's individuality?

If I knew how to do that- giving references might be a bit easier.
Any tips?

Bas~Melech said...

Hm. ALL the answers, you want? ;-)

If I just met someone and was asked about them, I'd probably just give a different reference. It's unfair to talk about someone you barely knew. If I had a great first impression of the person, I would probably say so, too.

But if you know someone, you still need labels in order to give over the information. Labels give you a handle on something. It just needs to be clear that they are just a springboard from which to delve deeper.

I think my biggest label issue is the labels that are specific to the frum community, because people have different definitions of them. One person's "orthodox" is not the same as anothers. Same goes for "yeshivish" or "heimish" and the rest. And those are the very labels based on which many people, without being able to define them, make zillions of unfounded assumptions. I was once firmly told that I am an "American Jew," yet when I repeated that to someone else they laughed in my face. So go figure how accurate people's assumptions are going to be when the labels themselves aren't so scientific. :-P