While walking around carnivals or amusement parks, you can spot a boyfriend/husband playing a carnival game in the hopes of winning a stuffed animal for his girlfriend/wife. The two lovebirds then walk, arm in arm, to another game, ride, or concession. When I was single, I would look at such couples and think, “Awwww, that’s sweet.” I’m not embarrassed to admit that I wished I had someone in my life to win an oversized or undersized stuffed animal for me that looked softer and “plushier” than it actually was. Yet, many years later, when a date did in fact win a prize for me, I didn’t want to accept it from him. I knew that the doll wasn’t an engagement ring, but I felt that by taking the doll that it would cement the relationship, and I wasn’t prepared for that. For some reason, that doll represented everything I didn’t want at that moment. For that moment, the cute little doll with the cute nose had some contagious disease that I didn’t want to contract. I didn’t want to touch it, much less hold it.
Here I was, a 30-year-old, going out for the fifth time with a good looking, very decent fellow who has won a stuffed animal for me, just as I always envisioned, so what was wrong with me? There was another fellow whom I dated, who was talking about building our bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael on the second date. I told him that I felt that he was rushing things. I was still trying to figure out if I was able to tolerate being with him for three hours on a date, while he was asking me, “Which dead relatives do you want to name our children after?” (True story) We were walking in Times Square during our second date and he kept asking me if I wanted him to buy me something. He walked into a couple of tourist stores and picked up salt and pepper shakers, a mug with my name on it, and a foam Statue of Liberty crown. I kept smiling and politely refusing. I didn’t want to give this fellow the wrong idea. He was already naming our children; if I accepted gifts from him he would begin picking the color scheme of our child’s bar or bas mitzvah! This guy wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. I finally was able to get him out of one of the overpriced souvenir shops and into Starbucks.
Recently, I received a letter from a fellow who seemed confused. Part of his letter read as follows:
“We have been dating for almost a month. I thought we were getting comfortable around each other. I happen to be in a store and saw a cute stuffed animal wearing a shirt that read, ‘U R A QT (You are a cutie).’ When I gave the little bear to the girl, she got all flustered and told me to take it back and she didn’t want it. Did I do anything wrong? I thought we were at that stage because we have been out several times…”
My heart went out to this fellow. He didn’t do anything wrong. But I can understand the reaction of the girl. Maybe the girl thought that by accepting this (innocent) gift she would be making a commitment to this fellow, and she wasn’t ready at this stage or time to do so. This can be further proof that men and women think very differently. This girl seemed to be reading into the gift whereas the gift giver thought it was a cute gift, no strings attached.
There is no right or wrong time in a relationship to give a gift. I remember when my brother-in-law sent my sister flowers (the week before they got engaged). My sister freaked out! She didn’t know what this meant, how she should act. Of course she had strong feelings for him, but “what did the flowers mean?” On the other hand, I have a friend who has received small gifts (such as stuffed animals and chocolates) from those whom she has dated in the past, and she doesn’t bat an eyelash or worry about what these objects meant to the gift giver. I asked her about it once, and she said that she was more than willing to accept something from someone if they bought it for her in mind. She didn’t want to hurt feelings if she refused a gift.
I will include another topic in this week’s article that shares the same theme or can be considered similar to the giving or receiving of gifts. The question has come up on a few occasions: “When do I meet his/her friends.” Meeting family and friends of the person whom you are dating can be seen as a very serious step for some. I vividly remember being on a date and walking around Central Park on a gorgeous spring day. It was my fourth date with the fellow, who seemed very nice and wore his heart on his sleeve, but I just didn’t “feel it.” I was using this date to explore my feelings, to see if I wanted to move forward with this fellow, should he want to continue dating. We sat on a bench for a moment taking in the scenery and the nice weather, when he broke the silence and said, “For dinner, I want to take you to my friend’s house. All my friends will be there for a barbecue. This way you can meet everyone.” All I heard were tires screech to a stop in my head. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go out with this (nice) fellow again, and he already planned to take me to a barbecue and meet all of his friends? I was not okay with this. I needed some time to ask myself the questions we all ask if we are trying to figure out if we want to move forward with someone, and I didn’t want the added pressure of meeting “all” his friends. What if things didn’t work out, then these friends would be able to say, “I really didn’t like her,” or “She wasn’t for you” or something similar. I didn’t want that. There is pressure involved in meeting friends. I would have wanted to be prepared for it and not have it sprung on me in the relatively early stages of dating someone (whom I may or may not have liked).
Then again, when I recently addressed a group in their mid-30s, this topic was discussed. Two of the men said that they didn’t think too much about the “whole meeting friends thing” like girls do. The ladies in the group disagreed with that. B’kitzur, they said that they considered meeting friends (and family) as moving to the next stage of the relationship, a serious step. I was able to stand back and listen while I heard very convincing arguments for both sides of this topic.
There are no rules in dating. You just have to do what feels right for you (and the person you are dating.) Open communication is key in a relationship – even one that is in the beginning stages. Don’t let anyone pressure you to move things along or to do something you are not comfortable with (I am addressing both women and men by stating this). Yes, some may not even think twice about giving someone they are dating a small little gift, while another may overanalyze what the gift means. There is no right time to meet friends and family of the person you are dating. The moment has to feel right and I’m not referring to running into friends while out in a restaurant, lounge, or movie. Both people in the relationship have to feel out all the situations and be able to discuss it freely. In my situation, after the shock of being blindsided with the friends’ barbecue idea wore off, I simply told my date that I didn’t feel comfortable meeting his friends at this stage. He understood and we went to a café.
Try not to read too much into a situation without knowing what the other person thinks about it.
Hatzlachah to you all!