I am a bochur in shidduchim who considers himself a normal, worldly boy. My dilemma is: How much do I say on a date with respect to how worldly I am and what I know? On one hand, I want to be honest, but on the other hand, I don’t want to scare the girl off.
In a certain sense, it occurs to me that perhaps the ideal solution would be to endeavor to date young women who you believe would appreciate your worldly nature. This is a matter than can be inquired about when speaking with references, and as one researches prospective shidduchim, before saying yes to a date.
Off the cuff, there would be two easily identifiable benefits to making such an effort.
Firstly, rather than worrying about disclosures that may reveal one’s enlightened awareness, and having to be apprehensive about how each comment will be perceived throughout the course of the dates, it would seem far more advantageous to be dating someone with whom one could actually engage in dialogue about shared interests related to their combined knowledge base, instead of having to avoid such topics.
And secondly, there is often more than sufficient reason for apprehension provided by a first date – and understandably so – as all first encounters are infused with the unknown. Even on a second date, it is quite common for some early-stage-jitters to remain. That being the case, there is really no need to put oneself in a situation where they must be nervous about yet another additional factor during the date. The more that can be done to create a comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere, the better, and removing barriers to relaxed conversation would surely fall in the category of enhancing comfort.
That said, and as ideal as such a path might be, in a strictly pragmatic sense, it is not always so simple a goal to actualize.
To begin with, one can never really be sure that their research was accurate, and there is no reason to introduce talking points that carry the potential of frightening someone away. Furthermore, it is almost certain that there are young women who may have a knee-jerk reaction of being turned off by such revelations, but once getting to know the young man they are dating, and after commencing to cultivate a connection, they may not be bothered whatsoever when learning of such a character trait, or even find it fascinating.
As such, there is a certain sensible safety in holding back from the mention of such topics during the early dating stage. Nevertheless, and though this is not my personal stance, there are those who do find the knowledge of outside culture to be objectively inappropriate. Consequently, it would be unfair to hoodwink a young woman by holding back in perpetuity, and thus be in jeopardy of having her come to the realization of a matter of personal disquiet only after a much deeper connection has been created, or worse, when on the brink of engagement or marriage. Accordingly, it would be the right thing to do to make sure the person one is dating is aware of this trait of theirs, and at a reasonable point during the dates.
Returning to the original question, how then should one undertake this task of letting their worldliness show through on a date?
As it appears to me, there are two ways to accomplish this undertaking – with each one presenting its own pros and cons – and I am sure there are other avenues to approach this quandary, as well, that are not currently coming to mind.
One route would be the direct approach. Now, this does not mean to flat out dive into dialogue about the most sophisticated of topics one can possibly imagine and wait for a reply either of intrigue or appall. Instead, one can begin with posing some rather normative questions related to worldly matters, such as “Do you follow politics?” or, “Do you like sports at all?”, or any number of references to relatively inoffensive topics that begin to broach outside culture.
The advantage to such a strategy is that it should offer a much more lucid answer to the question of whether or not such strains of conversation are irksome to the person one is dating. The disadvantage, however, is that if the response is a firmly posited “No, I really do not. Do you?”, it puts one in rather challenging position. One possibility would be to employ falsehood (don’t do that), or deftly evade the question entirely, with hopes of returning to the topic at a later time, after greater rapport has been developed. The other option would be to answer in the affirmative, and share information which might end a the shidduch, whereas if additional time was allowed to nurture a meaningful connection before addressing this particular topic head-on, it may very well have become a non-issue. Obviously, such is not an especially great position to be, and neither option is particularly palatable.
The other route would be one that is more indirect and nuanced. That is to say, interspersing a few well-placed and innocuous references to such themes, and gauging the response, if any, to discern where the person stands on the matter of worldly topics.
What is gained by this less bold tactic of spinning the wheel of fortune and seeing where it lands, is that it spares one from being placed in the aforementioned predicament of having no way to answer a direct question without potentially putting the shidduch at risk. The finitude of such a method, however, is that it relies on a somewhat more advanced level of apperception. If these allusions are not picked up on, one will end up right back where they started, and then be forced to play the more direct card, but now at a later hand in the game.
It would be hard for me to say that either tactic is patently better or worse, and it remains a personal judgement call that one must make, based both on what feels more natural and appealing, along with estimating which option would be more effective, given the personality of the person one is dating.
May the Meaneh Lashon help you to find the right words on all of your dates, and express yourself in a fashion that is both true to self, and endearing to those with whom you are speaking.