Quote For Thought: The Ladies Grieved…

4 Nov

“[He] was to bring twelve ladies and seven gentlemen with him to the assembly. The girls grieved over such a large number of ladies; but were comforted the day before the ball by hearing that, instead of twelve, he had brought only six with him from London, his five sisters and a cousin.”

— Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)

Seriously, this line made me laugh out loud. I chuckled like a cheetah, howled like a hyena and guffawed like a …snuffleupagus  Is this not every USBG I go to? Every vort? Every wedding? Every NCSY/Yachad/Bnei Akiva/shabbos table/shiur/charity event/Camp reunion/ debate/timeIstepfootonto185th? C’mon, even if you and I are not thinking about the “possibilities” at each of these occasions, how much would you bet someone is? I’d put my caf card on such a probability. Any day.

There is no need apply lengthy, windy prose to this actuality – when the number of women exceeds men at a USBG, the hopes of some women are tragically deflated. When, miracle of miracles, there are equal or more men than women…I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a lady or two pull out their siddurim and recite Nishmat. Thank You, O G-d for saving us from the drought of our days. We were starting to believe that our chosen fate is that of spinsters.

I’m sorry, I know I’m exaggerating the reality an eensy, beensey bit, but the similarities between 19th century English society and our Orthodox society are undeniable. The emphasis on numbers and dissemination of cockamamy, hackneyed ideas is clearly present in both scenarios. I merely laugh because if I do not, I will cry. We can be so shallow here in the West, so feeble-minded. I say if everybody is bored and dissatisfied enough with their lives to rag on about others then we should all go to Sderot or Chevron and give a helping hand.Nothing makes you grateful like a few bullet holes in the side of your trailer.Then again, maybe I’m being  judgmental, so I’m going to stop right here.

Shabbat Shalom to all!

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10 Responses to “Quote For Thought: The Ladies Grieved…”

  1. MSW November 6, 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    don’t laugh. there is an english professor that wrote a piece about teaching pride and prejudice to stern girls. you can imagine the scene – the culture of Jane Austen’s world is not too far off from the classic Jewish girl, just replace calling cards with text messages and voila – 21st century shidduch dating.

    my only recommendation is not to use Austen for relationship advice.

  2. Bluestocking November 8, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    I don’t think I’ve ever thought along those lines.

    • coralcap November 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

      MSW– Wow now that sounds like my kind of reading material! How would I gain access to this piece?

      Though Austen’s writing and wit are thoroughly entertaining, you are right, her approach toward male/female relationships isn’t exactly practical.

      Bluestocking– Well, many girls do think that way. It just so happens you are one of the lucky ones who is not bound to lose her marbles after realizing that the probability of marrying the first guy you date is pretty slim. Interestingly enough, the ones most obsessed with marrying right away in Pride and Prejudice are the mother and the two youngest daughters. The two girls who are really of marriageable age aren’t the desperate ones. I see that in our society as well– that the most worried ones are the mothers and the girls who aren’t quite at the dating stage in life yet. Once you’re in, your mindset changes.

  3. Bluestocking November 9, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    One thing Jane Austen did not have – that concept of bashert. If women back then were frantic over competition, how can we view things the same way? Are we being religious? How embarrassing. If I see other girls I analyze wardrobes. I got a few good ideas that way.

    I would beg to differ that once one is on the market the perspective changes. Lidia and Kitty were both “out,” meaning they were both marriageable, yet they were still desperate. This morning I was ticking girls off my fingers who married guys they did not really care for because the first, second, or third guys said “no.”

    Austen didn’t have only soulmates and damn the consequences. Her marriages still had to be practical.

    Did Marianne really love the Colonel? No, he was just the rebound guy. It doesn’t really matter, because he’s a good man and he’ll provide for her, which was the main focus of the 19th century woman (I’m rooting for him the whole time, although why he wants a silly like Marianne is beyond me).

    Anne Elliot turned down Captain Wentworth’s initial proposal as he was a penniless sailor. Luckily he came back with a fortune.

    The only ones who are content without fortune are the ones who marry vicars (Eleanor, Catherine) so they still are guaranteed an income.

    In the end, Austen was smart enough to know that love is all very well and good, but a couple also needs something to live on.

    Nowadays, that restriction, for the most part, is gone. With women in the workforce, they have the freedom to choose a spouse beyond his finances.

  4. Chana November 9, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    here’s the first page of the stern college teacher’s article-

    http://pedagogy.dukejournals.org/cgi/pdf_extract/4/1/119

  5. Happy Medium November 10, 2010 at 1:26 am #

    CoralCap – love this post! I took a course with this same professor (who wrote the above article), and hearing her talk firsthand about the experience was really fascinating.

    Bluestocking – nice touch, going through various Austen relationships. Does the point about income/happiness in marrying vicars indicate that we should all marry rabbis? 🙂

  6. MSW November 10, 2010 at 1:31 am #

    Thanks Chana for posting a link to the article!

    Bluestocking – I like your idea about comparing a bareshet-driven dating system to Austen’s. The fact that our societies seem to parallel – does that indicate that we are mishandling our approach?

  7. Bluestocking November 10, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    I think we’re mishandling things that in the pursuit of finding our basherts, we constantly take God out of the situation (which is the biggest oxymoron). We think we know better, that we can make demands or sell ourselves short or get frantic just because a few more girls show up to a vort. Austen’s women didn’t have that soothing feeling that comes when one thinks, “I have a bashert and he’ll show up at the right time.” But all too often we behave like Mrs. Bennet and Lydia (I’ll elope with a loser and then I’ll be married before all my sisters!).

    As for the vicars – they would live in a parish, and his income would be guaranteed. Not necessarily a large one, but a living. Rabbis however, not so much. According to the Rambam rabbis should not get paid for their work for the community. So back to seeking doctors (which is, oddly enough, still my mother’s deepest desire).

    • coralcap November 10, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

      Bluestocking, Bluestocking, Bluestocking…you’re reading my mind! What great chizuk you’ve given me. Lately I’ve been pondering the H word (Hishtadlut) and its delicate balance. How much of finding (or being led to – it depends on your perspective) our bashert is based on emunah and how much is based on our efforts? Is it even a matter of quantities? Does it matter how hard or not hard you try? It’s all in G-d’s hand so…nu, why even bother?

      It’s too easy to become Mrs. Bennet and Lydia; believing that we can somehow manipulate the cosmos and find our basherts quicker. But it’s not like the idea is completely moot. A major facet in the concept of mazal is that we have the power to change it, so when it comes to something we really want, of course we are going to try harder.
      The real question is – how do you know when you are slipping into Mrs. Bennet/Lydia mode and how do you knwo when you are facing the matter of shidduchim properly. Is it really about wanting to get married before all your sisters or is it really about wanting to just be with your soulmate already? Is it about the institution or the person?

  8. Bluestocking November 11, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    Hishtadlus for a girl is dressing up and slapping on some lipstick, according to halacha. While one can say that times have changed, I highly doubt calling various shadchanim and hounding them to set up your daughter is now required. The majority of shidduchim I know was made by family and friends, not a so-called professional shadchan.

    Ms. Bennet played games to get her girls a guy – she sent Jane in rainy weather to Netherfield so she would get sick and be forced to stay, in a time when fevers were not trifles. Lydia ran off with Wickham, compromising not just herself, but also her sisters. If one thinks it’s about what you say and how you say it, or if they run after this shadchan, then you are over-analyzing it, in my opinion.

    As Jews, we are told that motivations do not matter. So it would seem that if one desires to marry (for whatever reason) Hashem will send them the right one. But I often wonder if it is possible for one to say, “I don’t want to wait for my bashert. I’ll take whatever’s in front of me because I don’t want to be a nebach,” and so marry a non-bashert. Or does Hashem plan around it, taking that mindset into consideration and having the right guy in front of her? Hmmmmm.

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