E. broke up with me. Aside from the obvious issues I knew about (religious differences, geographic distance, her earning more than me), she listed a load more I didn’t expect: that she thinks she wants a higher standard of living than I want or could provide; and she worries that I can’t handle practical things like finances without help and advice from my parents and so on. All probably true, although I don’t think I’m quite as incompetent as perhaps I make out.
It’s funny, a frum (religious) woman once turned me down saying I was “too worldly”; now it seems I’m not worldly enough. Anyway, the already impossibly long list of things I need in a prospective wife has now been expanded to: gentleness; a supportive nature; mutual physical attraction; compatible personalities; compatible interests; compatible values and goals; acceptance of my depression, OCD, social anxiety and borderline autism; accepting of my geekiness; a compatible level of frumkeit and compatible hashkafa (religious philosophy) but acceptance that my mental health issues severely impact my davening (prayer) and Torah study; acceptance of the fact that I didn’t go to yeshiva; acceptance of the fact that I’m not really integrated into the frum community; acceptance of the fact that I’m on a low income; acceptance of the fact that I don’t really function well in the world (I’m not sure how much that’s depression, social anxiety or autism, but it doesn’t really make much difference either way); and preferably being based in the UK, despite the tiny size of the Jewish community here and the even smaller size of the frum community.
It all seems staggeringly unlikely to happen. I feel I should do something to warn myself off dating ever again, although as no shadchan (matchmaker) will take me on and as I don’t know enough people in the frum community to be set up on dates informally, and as I’m largely too shy to talk to women, and as there are few opportunities for single men and women to meet casually in the frum world anyway, it hardly seems worth the bother.
I feel that the odds would be against me even in the mainstream Western world. In the narrow world of frum Jews, with its mishegases (“crazinesses”) and bizarre rules and expectations, I don’t have a chance.
I do wish my geekiness/autistic special interests were focused on Torah study, though, as I would be a lot better integrated into the frum community if they were, not just regarding dating, but regarding friends and community in general. As I’ve noted before, I think autistic men can not just live in the frum community, but actively thrive and attain positions of responsibility, respect and leadership in it, provided they can make Talmudic study their autistic special interest.
The weird thing is that to me, most people, in general, do not seem particularly pious or intelligent or even particularly interesting. There aren’t that many people I’m desperate to have as friends and it’s interesting that a lot of my romantic crushes have been from a distance, or on people who I knew had significant differences from me. I assume that this is a function of my depression/autism-warped brain, or possibly just plain old arrogance, because most people make friends and find a partner just fine. Maybe I’m too judgemental or elitist, or maybe I’m too neurodivergent, or maybe everyone looks boring if you’re too shy to start a conversation with them.
I’m not ruling out dating again one day, although I find it unlikely, but it looks like it won’t be for another five to ten years, when hopefully I will be more comfortable with myself and my community and maybe earning more money. However, this in turn makes having children much less likely, as I don’t want to be a creepy forty-something dating women fifteen years younger than himself. I just hope I can build some kind of life for myself in the meantime. I probably do need to come to terms with my position in the frum community (not really inside it, but not exactly outside it either, more tangentially touching it) before I can really think about dating again. The thing is, the community is too big and established to change for me, so I either need to change to fit in or leave. I don’t really want to do either of those things. I don’t think there is much of a position for the neurodivergent, mentally ill or just plain weird Jew is in the frum community.
I felt so alone today, even before E. broke up with me (although I had known she was likely to break up since Sunday). I found myself crying at work again and I wasn’t sure if it was hay fever or depression. I think it probably was not hay fever. I just want to be loved, and to give love, passionately and romantically, physically as well as emotionally (obviously my parents love me, but that’s not the same thing at all), but it never seems to last long on the very rare occasions that it happens.
I hope that things will somehow miraculously rectify themselves, but somehow I doubt it.
I feel that I’m a wretched disappointment today. I disappointed God by not being a good Jew, I feel I disappointed my parents by not giving them grandchildren or nachas (reflected glory) (not much nachas, anyway). I disappointed my schoolteachers and didn’t justify the effort they put into my education by meeting my promise as an early high flyer. I know my boss considers me a disappointment at work, too slow, lacking in confidence with the students and prone to making stupid errors (speaking of which, I feel I have made a serious blunder in my role in the reorganisation of the library as part of the college restructure). I disappointed E. in the end. I think of the all the children who scorned and bullied me at school and who now have some modicum of money, status, love or happiness, looking down on me and feeling vindicated. (Actually, they probably don’t care any more. They probably don’t even remember me. To be honest, I struggle to remember them a lot of the time and they had a much bigger effect on me than I ever had on them.)
I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been reading Moshe Koppel’s fascinating Judaism Without Apologies blog, which has been looking at the interaction between traditional Jewish values and Jewish society and comparing them with secular liberalism, essentially combining ethics with descriptive sociology and a little microeconomics and game theory. He concluded that Jewish life – rich, meaningful, multidimensional Jewish life, of the kind I want, religiously and culturally rich, non-ghettoised and open to the wider world, but without being assimilatory – is increasingly possible in Israel, but nowhere else. I asked him if he thinks there is any hope for those of us unable to leave the diaspora (there are many reasons why I can’t leave); his response was a paraphrase from the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (which pleasingly he expected me to recognise and understand in the original Hebrew), that “in a place where there are no people [i.e. distinguished people], endeavour to be such a person.” That’s complimentary, but not very reassuring, as it paints me as the sort of lone voice in the wilderness that I tend to think of myself as when very depressed, but which is counter-productive most of the time, as it stops me reaching out to other people and just encourages my solipsistic introversion. Maybe it’s just as well that it seems that I won’t manage to have children, as I’m not sure what sort of Jewish heritage I could leave them.
There is more to say, but I ought to have some dinner and go to bed.