I received emails regarding the last article that was printed about my co-worker Rivky and her opinion about shidduchim. A few asked to hear more about Rivky’s thoughts on shidduchim. I never thought my co-worker would be the subject of not one, but two articles, but who am I to deny the public what it wants? As I’ve written before, I usually have a few articles “ready to go,” so I am never cramming to meet the deadline. I am putting the article that I was going to submit for this week on hold, so that I may write more about Rivky’s thoughts. Think of it as a Part 2 to the article published last time – and then I hope to get back to my regular articles.
Many of us in the office are married – some are newlyweds and some have already celebrated their silver wedding anniversary. Those who are single are all in the shidduch parshah. When there are quiet times in the office, people can be overheard discussing recipes, issues with children, plans for the weekend. A few weeks ago, a co-worker, whom I will refer to as Malky, was telling us about the dinner plans she and her husband had the night before. She told us that they had gone to a specific restaurant and the “craziness” that had gone on at the table next to theirs. Rivky stopped Malky mid-sentence and said, “You said that you hated that restaurant.” True, I remember this Malky mentioning a few months ago how she did not like this restaurant, but I wasn’t questioning why she went there as Rivky just did. Personally, I didn’t care why she went; I was just passing the time listening to a conversation. Malky, who has been married for a handful of years and has three children, gave an answer that I thought everyone would have understood. She said, “Because my husband likes it.”
Haven’t I written time and again that couples need to compromise in a marriage? If one spouse always gets his or her way, the other spouse may end up resenting the other. And it just isn’t right to keep insisting on getting your way. I don’t believe in the saying, “Happy wife, happy life” and I’ve told this to my husband. Of course, I’d love to be happy and right all the time, but that isn’t realistic; and if it were, then how could my husband – or any spouse – claim to really be happy? Life is full of compromises, whether you are married or not.
Rivky disagreed with Malky’s response and told all of us that she would never go to a restaurant that she didn’t like, even if her husband liked it. She added that she would never cook anything that she didn’t enjoy eating, no matter if her husband asked for it. She even joked that she would refuse him even if he said that his Bubby used to prepare the dish when he was a child. We all looked at Rivky. Even the single girls disagreed with her. Questions were asked:
“What about doing something nice for your husband?”
“You have to do something for your husband even if you don’t like it because I’m sure he’ll do things for you that he doesn’t like or enjoy.”
“Going out to dinner in a nice restaurant isn’t a real hardship to start a fight about.”
Rivky’s answer to all was the same: “Nope.”
Rivky is in her 20s. She is the youngest and only single left in a very large family. Her parents have been married close to 50 years. Surely she has seen couples compromise their wants and likes over the years by spending time with her parents and siblings. I don’t think that her train of thinking has anything to do with her not being married or her understanding, because Rivky made it very clear: “I will not do something that I don’t want to do, and my husband will have to understand that.” Ha! She thought it was as simple as that.
It was just the other day when I heard a discussion taking place right outside my office. The voices belonged to Rivky and a few of my staff members. They were arguing about the length of a sheitel. Upon further eavesdropping, I figured out that this was the first time that Rivky had seen my staff member (whom I will refer to as Chaya) in her new wig. I know that Chaya was excited about the sheitel, because she had been talking about it for weeks. When I saw her this morning finally wearing the “new do,” I told her that all the waiting paid off because the sheitel looked really good. Truthfully, the style was not my taste. Yes, it complimented Chaya’s face, but I didn’t think that it did anything for her. I didn’t think it was anything special, but I kept my opinion to myself. Rivky, on the other hand, did not attend the same Peggy Post Etiquette Class as I did, and told Chaya how the length was too short and she should have “gone a shade lighter.”
Chaya, who I imagined was a bit crestfallen that all had not fallen in love with her sheitel as she had, told Rivky that her husband liked this length of hair on her and loved the sheitel.
“So what?” was Rivky’s reply.
One of the other women tried to explain that it’s nice to wear something that your husband likes.
“Not if you don’t look good.”
The other women told Rivky that she was wrong and not to insult Chaya. Rivky didn’t seem to understand what she had done wrong. In Rivky’s world, she did her friend a favor by telling her the sheitel didn’t look good. Rivky said that Chaya should want to look good for her husband and for herself. She added something to the effect of, “If that’s what your husband thinks looks good, you have an issue.”
Oyyyyyy. At this point I stepped out of my office.
“If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” I said from the doorway.
“Someone should tell her. I’m giving her a chance to take it back to the sheitel macher to fix it. Maybe put some highlights in. Can they add hair?”
“Rivky!! Please come into my office.” I almost yelled it.
“I didn’t do or say anything wrong,” she said as I closed the door behind her, giving Chaya a sympathetic look.
I explained to Rivky that not only were her comments rude, but they may affect Chaya’s shalom bayis. Rivky didn’t see how a comment about a sheitel could have such an impact, adding that Chaya deserved to know the truth while the purchase is still fresh, because she may be able to go back to the sheitel macher to “fix it.” Rivky didn’t want to hear that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. She didn’t want to hear me say that this purchase was a big deal for Chaya and her husband (financially), and if her husband gave his opinion and Chaya respected and loved him enough to listen to it, why would she want to step in the middle of it, causing problems? I asked her if she thought of Chaya going home and complaining about the length to her husband and not being able to do anything about it. Rivky looked at me with a blank stare. She said that she didn’t think that Chaya was the type to go home and cry about her opinion, but even if she did, then she was glad to have had the opportunity to let her friend know that she didn’t look good.
I told Rivky that I couldn’t believe she was that foolish. I wanted to use the word “stupid” or “dumb,” but I don’t think it would have gone over well, and I didn’t want to have an argument. I told her that no one ever knows what happens behind the closed doors of a marriage. A comment that may be made innocently enough or in the hopes of “helping a friend” may cause a fight between a couple. I asked if she ever thought of Chaya, though she may be independent and strong on the outside, being crushed on the inside that a friend told her that the new sheitel she bought looks horrible and that following the advice of her husband was wrong. She could have just caused two people to have a miserable evening of arguing because of her words. It was then that I think I finally got through to Rivky.
She said that she didn’t mean to insult Chaya, but when her friend asked her what she thought of her new sheitel, she told her the truth. I reminded Rivky that with married couples, the conversation or comment doesn’t end when you part ways; it continues when that person gets home and tells her spouse what was said. How many times has anyone dissected and analyzed in her thoughts a conversation she had with someone earlier in the day? She reviews what she said, what the other person said, what the other person could have meant by what she said, etc. It is no different when someone gets married, but now you have another human being dissecting and analyzing with you. She said that she didn’t think that Chaya would really go home and argue with her husband. I said that Chaya may not, but we didn’t know for certain; but I wouldn’t want to be the one responsible for an argument or hurt feelings.
Rivky readily agreed. She said that she will visit Chaya’s desk later in the day and apologize for making her feel bad. “But c’mon? You think she looks good?” I couldn’t believe Rivky asked me that, after what we just discussed. Before I was able to answer, Rivky said that she was lucky because she knew what looked best on her and doesn’t rely on others for fashion advice. This means that she won’t have to ask her husband what to wear or how to style a sheitel.
I didn’t want to argue with Rivky, but I wanted to set her right. I told her that sometimes, not always, husbands like to be consulted about their wife’s fashion. Husbands want to feel as if their opinion matters; and if they tell their wife not to wear something because they don’t like it or to wear something because they like it, and the wife listens, it gives them a boost of sorts that their wife values their opinion. Rivky made a snorting sound: “I’m not gonna wear anything I don’t want to; and if he doesn’t like it, too bad.”
I sincerely hope that Rivky does not look back on her ways and regret them. I also hope that when Rivky finally does become a kallah, she can understand what we all are trying to tell her. Marriage is all about compromise, and if you love someone enough, you will want to make him happy, and if wearing something or going to a certain restaurant makes him happy, then do it. If she fights to get her way, her husband may give in, and he may like making his wife happy by giving in to what she wants, but after a while the cuteness of it all may wear thin. The husband may wonder why he never gets his way or does what he wants, while Rivky wins all the time.
Maybe growing up wealthy shaped Rivky’s way of thinking. She may have gotten her way all the time, and everything she wanted. I happen to think it’s also a lack of maturity and the fact that she has not found her bashert yet. She has not found someone whom she wants to keep happy and bring a smile to his face. Someone who is single may think she understands marriage and compromise, but not until she lives it, will she fully understand. I just hope Rivky finds it out early enough to change.
Hatzlachah to you all.