July 4, 2002
Lonnie was a matchmaker's client from hell.
No bachelor was more adroit at saying "No, thanks" when told, "Have I got a girl for you." The 38-year-old Orthodox man still lived at home, waiting for a "woman of valor" to take him away. The community obliged, offering him a shortlist of nice Jewish girls.
Without so much as a shared cup of coffee, Lonnie stamped each "Return to Sender." Roxanne had hair like Medusa. Barb's voice was mousy. Ellen was damaged goods. And Ruth. A fine specimen now -- but look at her mother.
To be sure, Lonnie was ill-prepared for a contemporary professional woman, one who shaves her legs while tuned to "Sex in the City." "I don't understand," he once shuddered, "how a man could marry someone who would kiss him before the wedding."
Large Jewish cities are replete with secular Lonnies. A few play for time and win the princess of their dreams. Others hold out indefinitely, collecting invitations addressed "and guest." The rest of us swallow hard and broaden our notion of "good enough." We stop weeding out; we start weeding in.
"Thou shalt not settle" keeps singles single, argued psychologist Judith Sills in her book "How to Stop Looking for Someone Perfect and Find Someone to Love." A die-hard bachelor will step into a roomful of eligible women and, in a blink, judge that 90 percent don't make the cut. Instead, wrote Sills, he should see 90 percent as prospects.
We all know career bachelors -- Singles Weekend regulars who insist they're ready and willing to stand beneath the chuppah -- with the right goddess. All they have to show for their "efforts" are more tick marks on their wall and more candles on their cake.
Fact is, men are drawn to beauty; we all have our standards. But some men's standards are unforgivingly narrow -- unless she has the face of a Victoria's Secret model or is as endowed as the state of Texas.
Occasionally, when discussing the meat market with buddies, I'll suggest a charming woman of our acquaintance. They'll wince and, with a sheepish "I don't think so," explain why she won't do.
Their reasons range from the ridiculous to the sub-lame:
1. Her hair is too curly/short/frizzy/red. Men will turn down a prospect if her dead protein is the wrong shape, length, texture or hue. This from guys with male-pattern baldness.
2. Her accent/voice/laugh/sneeze makes me barf. "I'm sorry," confides a New Yawker, "but I can't marry a woman who drawls." Hey, Yank: The war is over.
I can understand balking at a disagreeable voice. Once, I heard a shrill-voiced woman choosing eyeglasses with her husband. "Marge Simpson," I thought, "he must really love her." When she turned, I beheld a drop-dead beauty. Suddenly I was listening to a sultry voice-over for Chanel.
Guys: Give Ms. Shrill a chance. If she's right for you, it won't matter if she laughs like Elmer Fudd.
3. She's two years older than I. Secure, are we?
4. She's two inches taller than I. Secure, are we?
5. She's eight inches shorter. Who's being small?
6. She's damaged goods. When I was single, a nebbishy roommate of 40 declined a date with a two-time divorcée. "Two-time loser," he explained. She's unworthy of a no-time loser?
7. She's fat. If there's one trait that single men won't abide, it's excess avoirdupois. Even I plead guilty. "It's not unfair," we explain. "She can choose to lose."
If only we could lose our punishing attitude.
Dennis Prager has met a Lonnie or two. As a rabbinic student in the '70s, the Los Angeles-based talk-show host was often a guest for Friday night dinner. One night, young Dennis sat beside an Orthodox bachelor. Like Lonnie, this guest was a rare bird: over 30, but still single.
Not shy, Prager asked, "So why haven't you married?"
"I haven't met the woman of my dreams," the man of God replied.
"And who might she be?" pressed the cocky youth.
"A Playboy bunny who studies Talmud."
I shouldn't be too hard on these guys. In my second singlehood, two names were floated my way: Myrna was too chubby; Helen too plain. One is now married with three beautiful children. The other, I hear, still lives not far from Lonnie.
Lonnie, are you still at home?
Technical writer Paul Franklin Stregevsky writes personal essays about family life, relationships and values. His essays about encounters with strangers can be found at http://www.actsofkindness.org/inspiration/essays.html.