Friday, February 02, 2007

On Titles

I spent this past Shabbat at CJ's parent's house. Everyone was really nice, and welcoming, save for the moment (maybe 20 minutes before the start of Shabbat) that his mom walked into her kitchen to see me talking to CJ's dad, and said: "And who are you?" Other than that, a good weekend.

Here's my question, though. With that one exception his parents, and siblings clearly knew who I was, and I think that his community did too, but whenever people came to meet me, he introduced me as his "friend." The first time that he did so, I found it fairly jarring, and was surprised. CJ claimed that to announce me as his girlfriend was a bit aggressive, that people would assume that we were sleeping together if he did so (really?), and that since it's an Orthodox community people are "friends" until they are engaged. I'm not so sure that, that is the case, but maybe my community is different.

I didn't mind so much that he wasn't specifically calling me his girlfriend, as that he was calling me something else. CJ said that people would "figure it out" in context, but it was the misdirection that I disliked. I asked him to just introduce me by my name, rather than with a different title. Not sure if I'm overreacting here, but if you just introduce someone by name, and you are standing very close to them, and they are staying with your parents, isn't that a better context from which to "figure it out" than if you say that the person is a friend?

At any rate, there was at least one amusing incident from the weekend. CJ's mom and sisters didn't make it to shul, so I sat by myself in the women's section. During davening CJ noticed three older (and I mean older than my parents) guys talking amongst themselves. At some point they approached CJ:

Guys: You know, there's a cute girl over there, sitting by herself. Maybe she'd be a good shidduch* for you.
CJ: Hm. Which one?
Guys: (point to me)

At this point CJ had to make a decision. Either tell the guys that we're dating, or pretend to just have noticed me, and then come up after shul and do something inappropriately intimate. Fortunately for our relationship he chose the former.

Amy Dickenson, an advice column who I hate with my entire being (but read anyway) recently addressed the issue of titles. She, and a reader suggested the use of "sweetie." As in, you introduce the person as "your sweetie" or "your sweetheart." I can just imagine how much CJ would love that. Anyway, I much prefer Carolyn Hax's response to a similar question. Basically she suggests that the writer "calm the f*** down." But then again, what else can you expect from the brilliant woman who coined the term "asshat?"

Unrelatedly, while looking for blogs that dealt with this issue I came across this post at Apparently some father heard that his son was dating a non-Jew, and so sponsored a Shabbat meal in the kid's honor at Chabad, so that the kid could meet other Jewish kids (preferably of the female persuasion). My parents did a similar thing when I was in high school and (rebelliously) dating a non-Jew. Every Friday night my mom would invite over a different family for dinner, with a son of approximately my age. How she found that many Jewish young men in Virginia, I'll never know. My mom is a woman of many talents.


Smeliana said...

A bunch of years ago I had a long-term boyfriend whose role in my life was undisputed. He came home with me for Sukkot and whenever family friends came for meals I introduced with, "This is my boyfriend, DPK." Midway through Day 2 of this routine, he leaned over to me and simply said, "My name is DPK" implicitly scolding me for putting his honorific first. My introductions of boyfriends now exclusively include their names and clear body language.

That being said, I love being introduced with, "This is my girlfriend, Smel." I wear the label proudly.

Dina said...

Well, thanks to someone who writes for this blog, that shiddach found me a nice jewish boy from Virginia. (Except that he's probably at this point lived longer outside of VA than in it...)

When I once introduced him as a "Friend" Smel giggled. But it was to a grandmother who had a "Friend" herself. I always joke about my Grandfather and his "Friend" [Redacted]. Mostly because at one time, he had three "Friends" at once, and when he brought "American Friend #2" (opposed to A. F. #1 or Israeli Friend) to dinner, my mother instructed my young sister and I not to mention [Redacted] or First "Friend"

Woah. My grandfather has a lot of friends....good think he started early for his bar mitzvah