Monday, October 18, 2010

Meeting Naturally

He looks at me, and I look right back at him. At the moment that our eyes meet, we both glance away blushing slightly, pretending we weren’t looking at all. Perhaps he thinks I’m cute, and perhaps I am thinking the same thing about him. This scene has taken place in various forms in any number of places, be it in the supermarket, on the train, during Kiddush at shul, or on the street. The question that pops into my head is always, “Now what?”

I have friends and know people who “met naturally” i.e. without a shadchan or person setting them up. I’m just not sure how they managed to do that. I mean, take the scenario above. Great, I noticed a frum Jewish guy around my age. Assuming he is not dating/engaged/married/otherwise taken, and assuming that there is a chance we are compatible hashkafically and in terms of personality (which of course you can never really know before you find out more about the person), then how do we get from the point of “we-are-both-looking-at-each-other-curiously” to the point of talking and then possibly to dating? Note that each of those steps is a giant impossible leap. Let’s start with the first step. There is no way that I would walk up to a random guy and approach him. Social rules say that is not accepted, and even if it was I am way too shy. Unless I could make up some sort of excuse. So that leaves the only possibility of us talking up to the possibility that he will approach me. Which he will probably never do for one of the following reasons:

1. Fear of rejection. I understand that, I would be too chicken myself. Any guy who approaches a girl he doesn’t know has got to have some guts.
2. Fear that I will think he is creepy for approaching me. Depending on what he says and how he says it, this fear might be valid and I might very well end up thinking, “Why did this random guy just randomly start talking to me?” I, however, consider myself a relatively friendly person, and if a guy came up to me and said something normal, (and not creepy, for instance, “You have nice eyes.”) then I’d like to think I would give him a chance.
3. What in the world is he supposed to say??

In theory I could think of ways he could say to me, but in my mind they never seem to play out. For example, if we are in the supermarket, he could say something like, “Do you know how much this box of cookies costs?” Firstly, this seems somewhat lame, and I would never say such a thing to a guy, and if he said that to me, then I would simply answer him with the price if I know it or that I don’t know if I don’t, and then there the conversation dies and we continue along our merry ways. To sum up, it seems that even if either one of us could conquer the fear of being rejected as a weirdo or a creep for approaching someone we don’t know for no apparent reason, then the problem is that we would simply have nothing to say to start off the conversation. Perhaps it is simply that my conversation starters need some work, but I can’t imagine how a guy is supposed to approach me.

If by some miracle we were able to start chatting, and this chat was going nicely and over the course of a brief five minutes there was a mutual positive feeling towards one another, then where in the world would it go from there? He can’t ask for my number or ask me out on the spot- that would just not be OK after 5 minutes of talking. So then we depart, never to see or hear from each other again, and there you have it, the impossibility of a date happening naturally.

I just don’t understand how people meet each other “naturally.” It seems to me that the only way to meet each other is if your friends know a guy (or if you are a guy, then your friends know a girl) and introduce you. But then how did they meet that guy?

Questions for the readers: Have you ever met someone “naturally” and if so how did that go? Have you ever/would you ever walk up to someone of the opposite gender to try and start conversation? What in the world would you say?? If someone approached you, would you be creeped out? What are your thoughts on “meeting naturally”?


  1. I think that the vast majority of those who 'meet naturally,' as you phrase it, are not meeting on the street or in the supermarket. This is true with goyim as well. It's rare for most men to try to 'pick up' a girl on the subway or any public place.
    Instead, I am sure that your friends who met someone outside of the official system likely met at an unofficial shidduch breeding ground (as one blogger, I can't remember which, put it), such as NCSY, college, a YU or shul event, or some other social meeting place.
    It is true that many of the problems you write about still exist, but they are not as pronounced in these scenarios.

  2. It was CoralCap who wrote about USBG.

    Once guys and girls hung out all the time. Said hello in the pizza store, that sort of thing. Now, not so much. Once a brother of a classmate came up to my sister by a vort and began chatting with her. My mother was giddy with joy. She didn't end up with him, but the concept is nice - casual conversation was not so analyzed once upon a time.

    But the fact is, we have to make do the the culture of our time. Insecurity has lead to fear of rejection, meaning guys are leery of approaching girls. So we'll just have to leave it to other divine means.

  3. ZZB- you are right- most meeting natuarlly occurs in what Coral calls USBG (thanks Bookworm for pointing that out). I did include "kiddush in shul" in my examples. It is definitely easier there, but having been in those situations before, many of the same problems still exist. In those cases the way I met guys was through friends, and none of them would have ever asked me out directly, for the reasons I mentioned.

    Bookworm- It's quite true that casual talking was more accepted. I was once in what I guess you could call an USBG and I was talking to a guy and my friends stood in the corner pointing and giggling as though it was the biggest deal in the world that I had a two minute conversation about the weather (or something trivial, I don't recall exactly). Luckily the guy did not see them...could have been quite awkward, and I never even saw the guy again after our two second conversation.

  4. I've had it happen to me a few years ago. It was weird for me...but only because I wasn't interested in the guy.

  5. I have one close friend who met his wife on the subway. He noticed that she was a nice, frum looking girl sitting by herself, so he sat nearby and started the conversation by asking if she was also going back to Washington Heights. After their 20 minute ride/conversation, he thought she had made some reference to having a boyfriend (which she didn't on either account) and she, having found out where he was from, inquired through a friend from the same city more about him and eventually had that friend (who knew the guy) set them up - and clearly it worked.

    The key is, as you mentioned, not to be awkward about it. Finding a conversation starter probably isn't impossible, though it may be difficult in some circumstances. Once the conversation is going, then you can tease little bits of information out of him/her such as my friend and his now-wife did, regarding background, where they're from etc - and then you can go the slightly more traditional route of finding a mutual go-between, which given the nature of Jewish geography, shouldn't be utterly impractical or impossible.

    Not freaking out is definitely key as well. True, this strange guy is talking to you, but people are often in scenarios where this happens every now and then. I've had conversations with random people when I was working at a YU event, in the airport after they noticed my kippah, tzitzis, or saw me davening in the corner. Just be polite, civilized, and respond in kind in a casual, but not off-putting fashion.

    I don't think it's advisable for any guy to ask for a number or a date on the spot after a short conversation like that. Going the behind-the-scenes way like my friend's wife did works, but I would be hard pressed to figure out a way to sort of mutually say both of you are interested in seeing each other again at that moment. It'd be entirely different if you ate together during a Shabbos meal or some other significant, several-hour-long occasion where you've had a chance to build up more of a friendly acquaintance (and you can use your hosts as a go-between/researcher/whatever anyway).

    Of course, this is all observational/theoretical. Although I did develop some close-ish friendships with girls during my time in NCSY in high school, I did not date (or marry, lol) any of them.

  6. I'm a big fan of meeting naturally! Maybe that should be a list- how I meet people (and met people). The list would include:

    1. Through my blog
    2. Various clubs at Stern/ YU - the Medical Ethics Society, the Israel Club, TAC/ SOY Shabbatons, etc
    3. NCSY!
    4. Camp Stone
    5. Through friends
    6. They are daughters/ sons of friends of my parents
    7. We started chatting in Barnes and Noble/ Starbucks/ on the subway/ at a kiddush in shul
    8. At people's weddings/ l'chaims

    But this is also easier for me because I don't see anything problematic about going up to people and saying, "Hi! I'm Chana! What's your name?"

  7. Sefardi Gal- yes the difference in your reaction when a guy walks up and starts talking to you is whether you find him creepy or not. Random creepy non-Jewish homeless men have approached me on the subway, and let me tell you, that is not a fun experience.

    Shades of Grey- That's great that it worked for your friend! And I agree with your point about being awkward or not. I have friends who if they were ever approached by any guy (even one they might potential be interested in otherwise) they would stare him down like he landed from another planet. Whenever random people approach me, I try my best to be friendly no matter who they are, and would definitely be receptive of a frum single male.

    Chana- Wow! That's a great list. :) You have to be very outgoing to just approach people like that. I probably need to learn to get over my fear of being rejected or stared at like a lunatic. I have met some guys naturally, but either they were not interested in me or I was not interested in them or both.

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