Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Age Really IS Just A Number

Women in their 30s and 40s always claim that "age is just a number," since they are the same exuberant youthful woman they were in their 20s. The validity of that statement is debatable.

I actually experienced age being "just a number" recently at a cousin's Bar Mitzvah.

I have a cousin who is a year and a day older than me. She's married with two kids, we'll call her Tzippy*. One of my male cousins married a young woman a month or two apart from me (don't remember whether she's younger or older) , and she has two kids as well, we'll call her Yaffa*. I actually like both of these young women a lot and enjoy their company. You'd think family simchas could be a breeze with two cousins so close in age to me. (Two cousins I actually like, at that!)

Oh, and I have another cousin who's 2 or 3 years younger than I am who is also married with a child, let's call her Yocheved*.

When I arrived at the bar mitzvah, my cousins, aged 16 and 17 (who were always a little too young for me to hang with), Devorah* and Chani*, were extremely friendly and welcoming, and we proceeded to pose for photos together, at their, and our parents' request.

So we're the new trio. Devorah and Chani, to their credit, weren't treating me as though I'm a nebuch case, but it was expected that I was to hang out with these high school pishers.

I never had much to do with them before. I know that six years is different when it's 22 to 16 and when it's 16 to 10. But since they were always the group below me in age, I never really associated with them.

What happened here?

Tzippy and I remember our joint birthday party when she turned 5 and I turned 4. Despite cultural differences, we always hung out at family simchas, and get along great, B"H. Then when my cousin got married a few years ago, and I met his wife Yaffa, I liked her instantly, so she we hung out too. Tzippy and Yaffa are genuinely nice people and are great company. However, a few years later, these relationships are no longer relevant according to "adults" and the general expectations.

Obviously, Tzippy and Yaffa didn't abandon me. (If they did, I wouldn't like them and speak so highly of them.) But the way everything is set up at the simcha, and the way Devorah and Chani have embraced me into their group, and the general attitude among everyone, it seems I have been demoted to hanging out with them.

Now, math wasn't my strong point. Let's do some anyway. Tzippy, who is a year and a day older than I, is 23. I am 22. Yaffa is 22 as well. Devorah is 16. Chani is 17. Noticing a pattern? Even Yocheved is only 2-3 years younger than I am.

See? Age is just a number. It doesn't matter that Tzippy, Yaffa, and I were born in 1984-1985, and Yocheved in the late '80s. These kids were born in the freakin 1990s!


There is no ring on my left finger.

No husband waiting for me on the other side of the Mechitza.

No sleeping baby in a non-Bug-A-Boo stroller.

Because of these circumstances, (which many of them believe I created for myself) I am 16 again!

*names changed for id purposes


At 6/18/2008 8:42 AM, Blogger katrina said...

Yes, when I have visited the Charedi world, I have been distinctly un-thrilled by the grouping together of all unmarried females as "kids" and all married females as "grown-ups." I once spent a few months going to a Charedi shul outside the US. The community was very friendly and welcoming, and I got invited to dinenr all of the time, but I was invited along with the seminary girls, who in almost all cases were 16-20 years old, i.e. over 5 years younger than I! Meanwhile, the "grown-up" women with children who invited me for dinner were sometimes 2 or 3 years younger, too. I can't really complain, because I was not in a position to make dinner and thus demonstrate my grown-up-hood, and both the married women and the seminary girls were very nice to me. But it did make me feel kind of lame.

At 6/18/2008 9:15 AM, Anonymous Mindy said...

Yuck. that stinks.

On a similar note though, while i was married for many years without children, I tended to gravitate to the newlyweds rather than to the marrieds my age, because we had more in common. In this case hwoever I dont th ink you have all taht much in common with eleventh graders...

stick up for yourself and sit with your cousins your age, despite the atmosphwere.

At 6/18/2008 9:58 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

You know what? I do have more in common, just by virtue of age, with my older cousins.
I have nieces and nephews, and I've changed plenty a diaper in my day.

I also cook a lot, and that's a common discussion among women.

With the youngsters, am i all that interested in sharing gripes about Regents that I took 5-6 years ago?! (wait, i don't think they take regents in Satmar...well, you get what i mean)

At 6/18/2008 11:23 AM, Blogger Kaila said...

well, when i was first married we went to a shul in which all the married women were middle-aged and talked during laining. the single girls were in their later teens to early twenties. (i was nineteen.) the single girls barely said hi to me,i was married. the older women barely said good shabbos, i was nineteen. the rebbetzin asked me every week if i was new, where i lived who my landlord was...

it took me a better part of the year to get friendly with the rav's daughter. and to find out that she had been engaged for 10 months. i only found out when i got an invitation to the wedding (a spoken one, they couldn't remember where i lived...) so i went to the wedding, and my only contact in shul moved away. and i was back to being stuck in my own group.

go figure.

michelle, if this happens again, ask for a picture with your closer cousins. speak up for yourself, i know you can.

At 6/18/2008 1:16 PM, Anonymous big bro said...

May as well title this one "Marriage Equals Credibility Part 2"

At 6/18/2008 3:01 PM, Anonymous Ike said...

Good post, going back to katrina's point, I wonder if it also has to do with the implicit (and sometimes explicit) sexism of the chareidim and chassidim. Many of them think that a woman's purpose in the world is to support a man and make babies, in which case a single woman is truly a second-class citizen. (Circus Tent had a very good post on this topic a few days ago.) I'd be curious to know of the experiences of older single males in these communities. From what I've heard, it's not as bad.

That said, you've gotta go into these situations with your head up high. Don't feel sorry for yourself. And then hopefully your relatives will respect you for who you are, not your marital status.

At 6/19/2008 5:44 AM, Anonymous big bro said...

Ike, good point about the way Chassidim and Hareidim view women, but according to that logic, the single men should have it worse because only the men are obligated in peru urevu; women are not. So a single guy is not fulfilling one of the most important mitzvos, while a woman isn't obligated anyway, so it shouldn't be as big a deal.

That said, completely agree with your last paragraph. It's like the old adage, no one mistreats you unless you allow it.

At 6/19/2008 5:39 PM, Anonymous sil said...

Big bro, it's not an issue of mitzvos, it's an issue of cultural identity. A man in that world at that age can be in Yeshiva or working, goes to shul, hangs out with friends, etc. and that is their identity, married or not. What is the identity of a woman? She is defined by the children she has and her worth as a homemaker.A woman can work, but she will not identify herself with her job, and if she does she will feel out of place in that community. In theory she could do acts of chessed and distinguish herself like that, but I imagine that the chesed jobs are reserved for the married ladies since they are the respected members of society, so it's kind of a Catch-22.

At 6/19/2008 8:06 PM, Blogger Michelle said...


At 6/20/2008 8:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

doesnt sound like you went over to your cousins that are your age and tried to hang out with them.

At 6/20/2008 9:29 AM, Anonymous Ike said...

Big bro - in addition to sil's point, your argument is based on a faulty assumption, i.e. that these people think logically. That is not the case, at least not in this area.

At 6/20/2008 10:27 AM, Anonymous sil said...

Ike, it's not a separate point. I don't think you can indict an entire group of people by calling them illogical, but they aren't acting based on logic because culture has nothing to do with logic, it has to do with comfort and tradition and peer influence.

At 6/21/2008 7:06 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

anon- i hung out w/them after. i wasn't trying to NOT hang out with them. I talked to them, too, jeez.
The point is that everyone there assumed that they were my new group of friends.

At 6/22/2008 11:31 PM, Anonymous Tzurva Merabanan said...

Why do you all insist that there is some sort of deep-seeded thought process going on here (and perhaps a religion-based one, at that)? You're either paranoid or bored. I am also a "slightly older single", and I notice all the same things, and I attribute it to nothing other than practicality. A spouse/children OUGHT to be occupying a parent's time (and seats at their table, spots in their pictures, etc.), and other parents ARE the ones with whom they now have the most in common and the most to talk about. It has nothing to do with you.

At 6/23/2008 12:05 AM, Blogger SemGirl said...

I know exactly what you mean, Michelle.. When I was single, there was this Shadchan who always used to talk to me like I was sub-human.

A few months after I got married, she sees me by a Chasana, and says Rochel, how are you. And you could see in her face that her level of respect went up like a hundred-fold. I never would of believed how much respect some dead hair would get you..

Dont give your relatives, the satisfaction of letting it get to you. Enjoy your single years to the fullest.

At 6/23/2008 5:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have, in the past, just picked up my plate and moved tables, but this has led to some consternation among the hosts.

I do find that I have less to talk about with the marrieds, and I don't mind chatting with the high schoolers (yet), but I can see where at some point it's going to get ridiculous. They're my cousins, even if they're married, and I'm going to continue hanging out with them whether they're married or not.

At 6/23/2008 6:27 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

tzurva- you're misunderstanding. My cousin's kids were not there. (except a newborn). i don't get what you mean. Obviously they can have pics with their kids, and whatever else you're talking about..(and it was separate seating, which I thought I made clear)

And, yes, it COULD be a religion-based thing, since our society considers ME as younger than my 20-year-old cousin with a kid. In a non-frum society, that is generally not the case.

At 6/24/2008 6:55 AM, Blogger halfshared said...

I can so identify. Although all my cousins are way older than me so not in that aspect, but I feel that dividing line at classmates weddings when I sit there and try to contribute to discussions going on but I can see myself not being taken seriously cuz "what does she know about.."

At 6/24/2008 8:10 AM, Blogger NafNaf said...

It's bizarre (even as a guy) to be 27 years old and get sat at the "kids table" along with the 18 year old yeshiva buchrim... Luckily frum weddings tend to be pretty heimish so I can move and site with friends. On the other hand, I'm still learning full time and don't have the same life issues as my (sometimes younger) married friends, so at times I'm thankful to be sitting at a table where I don't ahve to hear about the vageries of child-rearing or laugh awkwardly at the "my wife is so crazy" jokes.

At 6/24/2008 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

no one considers you younger than your 20 year old cousin just because she has kids. Perhaps a bit more immature but not younger. A certain maturity comes with being responsible for other human beings and so until you are married and have children, chances are that you have more in common with your single cousins than your married ones.
No one said that you CANT be friends with married people except for you!

At 6/24/2008 6:26 PM, Anonymous Tzurva Merabanan said...

Perhaps we misunderstand each other. What I'm trying to say is that nobody is trying to "define" you or "consider" you anything. Is your only reason to think so the fact that, even without their husbands/kids around, your married friends get placed together at simchas without you? You should think about it the way that other commenter just said - they have child-raising discussions ruling their lives which make them appropriate table-mates and not you. But whatever it is, placing people with the most in common together is social, not religious.

At 6/25/2008 3:18 PM, Anonymous sil said...

Tzurva, I really don't understand you. Nobody has to "try" to "consider" you something, it happens naturally. And nobody said it was a religious thing, we have all been agreeing that it IS a social phenomenon, and that is what bothers Michelle. It's weird to grow up with certain cousins and then all of a sudden be grouped with another set of cousins solely because you are unmarried. Maybe you don't have such a dynamic in your family, but michelle does, and that is what she is talking about.

And think about it this way: If you (unmarried) went to a wedding where all of your friends are married is it more appropriate for them to seat you with the high school girls who happen to be at the wedding, or with your friends who are married? The bottom line for me is that if a group of married women can't think of anything to talk about that will not exclude the unmarried or childless they have serious issues. There is no reason why married and unmarried or childless people cannot sit at the same table and be friendly and interact, and there is no reason why Michelle should be viewed by her extended family as a "young girl" simply because she isn't married.

At 6/25/2008 5:42 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

sil- well, thanks. Said it better than I could have myself.

At 6/25/2008 8:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe michelle gives off a nasty vibe towards married girls as we see in many of her posts and that is why she is put with others.

At 6/26/2008 12:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am obviously not making myself clear, but I don't want to beat a dead horse. My experiences have been different from yours. Maybe that last post was right, and it is a personality thing, but I have not been finding myself at all excluded from my married friends - provided that their kids aren't around, the conversation isn't about kids, etc.

At 6/26/2008 12:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am obviously not making myself clear, but I don't want to beat a dead horse. My experiences have been different from yours. Maybe that last post was right, and it is a personality thing, but I have not been finding myself at all excluded from my married friends - provided that their kids aren't around, the conversation isn't about kids, etc.

At 6/26/2008 5:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's the problem in a nutshell:

When the married girls talk to you, and they happen to mention their husbands or their kids, these girls are "rubbing it in my face."

When they don't mention they're husbands or kids, they're acting unnaturally, and that's annoying and rude.

When they don't talk to you, then they're snobs.

In other words, MARRIED GIRLS CAN'T WIN!

At 6/26/2008 7:45 AM, Anonymous BSD36578 said...

My friends, did it ever occur to anyone else to participate and be genuinely interested in the Marrieds' conversation? So what that you might have less to contribute. Nothing wrong with listening. Don't you still value when they listen to what you have to say, be it about dating or your job or whatever else occupies your time? Then be interested in theirs too! I have found that this not only eases the awkwardness (a la anon 6/26 5:14 am) but also maintains the friendship during this "unequal" period in life and hopefully will make it smoother for you(us) to transition into a Married one day soon. And it's also a general friendship thing, perhaps even helping to prepare you(us) for marriage by appreciating what matters to someone else. Plus if you listen well you will already have advice and lessons stored up that you can learn from later. It's not easy, but since I cherish my friends, I work hard at this and you know what, thank G-d I still have close relationships with my friends (who are almost all married Boruch Hashem) and cannot complain about being "abandoned." (Also, to reiterate a much-mentioned point, I also appreciate when they're too busy for me, as sometimes I am also too busy for them. But it's a mutual understanding, and we try to make time both ways whenever feasible.)

(I know this post was really about relatives but since I don't have too many cousins my age, to me it's more about friends. But I guess it's applicable to anyone.)

At 6/26/2008 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From reading your blogs it seems like you have pushed away many of your married friends. Who will you have left when you get married some day? Maybe if you were more tolerant of other people and didn't always try to look into peoples heads and thoughts you would be happier

At 6/27/2008 9:26 AM, Anonymous sil said...

I really don't think the last few commenters have gotten Michelle's post at all. You are projecting your own views, feelings, and experiences onto her and then dovetailing it with posts she has written in the past, which in my mind have no bearing here.

Look at what she wrote in a vacuum and I think she has a valid point.

At 6/29/2008 8:53 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Well, Sil, thanks again for your defense.

Those who claim I pushed away my married friends; do you know me in real life? didn't think so.

I am still in touch with many of my married friends. I don't cringe when they mention their husbands.

I am not that stereotypical girl described in the comment that claims married girls can't win. I have married friends whose company i thoroughly enjoy, and they never hesitate to talk about their husbands or children in front of me. And I'm fine with it.

At 6/29/2008 8:58 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

And, oh yeah, BSD raised an accurate point: this post WAS about relatives, which SIL aptly mentioned, I grew up with. If I grew up with a certain age group of cousins, why can't we remain.

According to this logic, do you all expect me to hang out with my friends' little sisters because I can "relate to them better"?!

And, those who say I am pushing married friends away, I thought I mentioned that I have plenty in common with them and plenty to talk about. In general, at this age, i feel i have more in common with a married 22 year old than a single 16 year old.
Don't talk to me like I'm that kvetch who sent a letter to the Yated, Yeshiva World, and anyone else who would print it.

At 7/08/2008 9:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me a a scenario my sister saw at a friend's wedding--the kallah's friends were about 19 or 20. One of the guests at the wedding (she was there as a neighbor of the kallah) must've been about 27 or so. Instead of seating her at the table with the "neighborhood friends" group (which included this specific guest's mother), she was placed with the kallah's friends, all of whom were fresh out of seminary, while she had graduated college, held down a job for quite some time, and was basically an independent and grown up woman. (I beg to differ that a single woman has less maturity than a married woman only by the virtue of not having responsibility of caring for children. There are many things that go into making a person mature, and caring for children is just one of them). I am sure that the people making the seating arrangements never even thought twice about where to place her, it was such an obviously stupid arrangement.

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