You may ask, "Why all this talk about a mensch?" Perhaps you haven't heard the word before. You're going to have to trust me here in suggesting (or should I say demanding?) that you seek one out. Okay.... do I sound too much like your mother, favorite aunt or grandmother? The last thing I want to do is get on your back about it. However, let me say that you will absolutely not regret it if you are fortunate enough to find a mensch to share your life with. You will thank me afterwards for impressing this upon you, and you mother will thank me, too. You don't have to invite me to the wedding, but I'd certainly love to hear from you if you find yourself living happily ever after with your MRM.... Mr. Right Mensch.
The Mensch Factor
How do you know if someone has the "mensch factor?" And why should a mensch be the mate of choice? Because a mensch makes top-notch marriage material, assuming you are seriously looking to settle down. He represents all that is kind and true. In other words, he is emotionally healthy. The bottom line is, quite simply and emphatically put: Mensches rock!! There is none better when you have marriage on the brain. Women in the know have for years sought out the mensch species because they are the very best in the "jungle" of dating. I hope you will do the same.
But, before you can find your mensch, you must be able identify a true one and be one to others and yourself. You need to walk the mensch walk.... we'll call it the "mensch mile." You've heard the expression "until you've walked a mile in someone's shoes," meaning, until you've experienced what someone else has been through, you're not one to judge. In other words, be a master of your own "menschery," so you know how to find and marry one. Good attracts good - so work on your inner mensch. If you believe you deserve to find a good guy and invite the notion into your life, it is all the more likely to happen.
Mensch Myths Exploded
Let me dispel a few Mensch Myths that you might have on your mind. Take the following short quiz.
Does a mensch have to be Jewish?
Is a mensch the same as a schlep or schlemiel
Do mensches speak Yiddish?
Does circumcision make a mensch?
Can a Star Trek fan be a mensch?
Can a femme fatale be a mensch?
The answers are — no, not at all, some, no guarantee, questionable (just kidding) and absolutely.
How did you do? Do you need to brush up on the term?
Measure Your Mensch Factor
How do you yourself measure up on the mensch scale? Do you have the mensch factor? Take the following quiz:
1. A close girlfriend calls. You just stepped out of the shower. She needs advice and wants you to come over since her car broke down and she can't get to you. You -
|a. Tell her to eat some Ben & Jerry's and forget her sorrows.|
|b. Suggest she call a car service and hightail it to your house.|
|c. Give her the Web address for Dr. Ruth and suggest she drop her an e-mail.|
|d. Throw a towel over your wet hair, put on some sweats, and zoom over to her place.|
2. Your friend, on a serious budget, needs decorating advice, and she knows you're good at it. You —
|a. Say you'll help her and then send a bill for your time.|
|b. Advise her upfront that you can't do it for free.|
|c. Tell her to watch a home improvement show.|
|d. Offer to go to Ikea together and help her pick out the perfect furniture.|
3. You're doing your weekly food shop, and there's one already-cooked roast chicken left in the store. An elderly woman wants it, as do you. You -
|a. Take out a quarter, and flip her for it.|
|b. Willingly let her have it.|
|c. Try to convince her to buy the roast turkey breast instead.|
|d. Stick it in your cart and run quickly to checkout, hoping she'll get over it.|
4. Your friend desperately needs someone to watch her dog for a few days while she's away on an unexpected business trip. You've never had a pet before. You -
|a. Embrace the challenge, and buy a book on proper dog care.|
|b. Suggest she take the dog to a kennel.|
|c. Explain that you're honestly not comfortable watching the dog since you have no prior experience.|
|d. Tell her you hate dogs and that she should get a bird.|
5. You and your boyfriend dine out periodically with the same couple. Knowing they typically run up a much larger liquor tab than you, you — -
|a. Decide in advance to split the tab, however it plays out.|
|b. Grab the bill when it comes, whip out your calculator and pay your calculated share.|
|c. Order a 3 lb. lobster, hoping it will equal their liquor tab and even out the bill.|
|d. Diplomatically suggest you get separate checks as couples.|
6. You invite your parents over for dinner for the first time in your new apartment with your boyfriend. You cook a roast chicken, your signature dish, but are so nervous that you forget to clean the bird before you season it and put it in the oven. You -
|a. Explain and apologize to your parents, and order in Chinese food instead.|
|b. Quickly send your mensch boyfriend to the supermarket to buy a new chicken, and eat dinner later than planned.|
|c. Serve the chicken anyway and hope no one gets food poisoning.|
|d. Cancel the dinner.|
RESULTS: A MENSCH WOULD HAVE ANSWERED AS FOLLOWS: (1) d; (2) d; (3) b; (4) c; (5) d; (6) b
What Is A Mensch, Anyway?
I often get asked the definition of a mensch and how to know if someone fits the bill. My reply is that a real mensch will stand the test of time and be there for you through good and bad. You don't have to question his motives. We defined a mensch earlier as a decent, responsible person. More formally defined, a mensch is a person of integrity and honor, whether a man or a woman. In jest, I have heard the word menschette used to describe a woman, but there is no real basis for that. Other interpretations include a person having admirable characteristics, such as fortitude and firmness of purpose.
A mensch possesses the qualities one would hope for in a dear friend or trusted colleague — someone willing to give you the shirt off his or her back. A mensch shows respect for him or herself and for others, and in return, commands respect. They are sensitive to the needs of others and want to help them. The term mensch comes from eastern Europe, and to refer to someone as such was considered the ultimate compliment. It takes true strength of character to earn the title of a mensch, a way of being in the world that is reflected in all that he does. Imagine having the opportunity to walk down the aisle with one. How much better could a spouse possibly be as a person?
As we've established, mensches don't have to be Jewish. But, if someone is Jewish and a mensch, does that make him all the more desirable? To some, the answer would be yes, because even some non-Jewish women (otherwise known as shiksas) crave the company of a mensch. They feel that Jewish men are the way to go because they perceive them as being raised well, and many are stereotypically associated with big earnings potential, among other appealing traits. Shiksas on the make for mensches might go so far as to presume that all Jewish men are well-bred, wealthy or mensches, but there are exceptions.
The "ersatz mensch" may try to pass himself off as one, but he is really a wolf in mensch clothing, so don't be taken in. Not all mensches are created equal. Decide for yourself what is most important in a mate, and look for those qualities when playing the mensch field. No one is perfect, so this is the time to curb your perfectionist tendencies if you have them. While it might be nice to have the "trophy husband," it's not all about looks either, especially when it comes to mensches since they offer so much more.
While the term mensch literally means a "person" or "man," kindness and decency know no gender, so, as stated earlier, a woman can be a mensch as well.
Chuck The Checklist And The Matzo Meal
A person need not be Jewish to be a mensch, as we've clarified. Mensches come in all sizes, shapes, sexes and religions, and they don't necessarily love matzo balls or know how to make them. Each has his own menschisms, meaning manners, personality, and behavior. You must not judge a person by how you think they should act based on preconceived notions or stereotypes. Establish what you want in a mate, but be open-minded. One more time: You can never get everything! This doesn't mean compromising standards, just being flexible and realistic and prioritizing.
Think clearly about what makes for a good marriage. Look at couples you know who are happy. Do they talk to each other a lot? Are they both ambitious? Do they enjoy doing things together? Are they of equal intelligence? Do they both pitch in when it comes to taking care of the kids and/or their home? These are important questions.
A person is not bad just because he doesn't act as you would hope. You can't judge another's actions if they fall short of your own, unless you feel taken advantage of by them. If that's the case, the relationship isn't a healthy one, and you should be aware of that. It is a lot to assume a love interest, or even friend or family member will meet all your expectations. One way to look at it is that all individuals dwell in their own world and have a belief system they create for themselves. Due in large part to our upbringing and past history, our belief system, which may be false, will easily rule our thoughts and not allow us to respect the differences in people. It can also block you from meeting a mensch because you are so fixated on making sure he "measures up" that no one will meet your sky-high standards.
We are influenced by what we perceive a marriage should be from witnessing our parent's marriage, good or bad. We were also each raised to believe that life has certain possibilities or limitations, and this influences our thinking. The right mate can potentially help you get past that, but ideally you are able to work on yourself so that you can make the right choice in a mensch, and not look to someone to make you whole or happy. You might be happier with a mensch by your side, but your MRM shouldn't be your sole source of joy. Often we choose mates to help us resolve issues from the past or even to bring to the surface challenging relationships we've had with parents, so we can learn to rise above.
Take a look at a free spirit, if you know one. Free spirits live in the moment, don't overanalyze, go about their lives, etc. Notice how they may socialize with abandon and date up a storm. Perhaps because they live for today, they are able to take each date for what it's worth without attaching an outcome to it. Imagine how freeing that might be. Pretend you are a free spirit. Can you? Do you think it would enable you to date more? Would dates become more fun because you're less nervous about how each one might turn out? Would you open your mind to different types of people? Would your conversation be more upbeat because you're not focusing on your dating history, disappointments, etc.? Would you be able to stop trying to determine if each guy is Mr. Right Mensch (especially during the date) because you are placing greater reliance on your inner faith and trust that it will happen for you when it's meant to?
Give-and-take is part of any relationship, and we all come to a relationship with a different sent of values and experiences. These have an impact on our expectations of a mate. If you marry someone similar to yourself in terms of interests and attitude, it is more likely that you'll have a good marriage. One of the keys to a fulfilling relationship is knowing that you can actually live without one — that you'd be okay and could fend for yourself. It takes a lot of pressure off you if you aren't looking for someone to take care of you, but rather someone to complement you.
Act Like You Want To Marry A Mensch... Don't Just Think It
You need to make meeting Mr. Right Mensch a priority in your heart and mind. Many single people say they want to get married, but don't act like they do. I mentioned this earlier but want to reinforce it here. These people think about it and are convinced it's a priority, but when push comes to shove, they really aren't committed to making marriage a reality. If you take to heart just one message from this book, I hope it is this: Saying something and really wanting it enough to do something about it are two different things.
Does that make sense to you? Are you able to proclaim with complete conviction that you really want to get married sooner rather than later, or do you just think you do? You can save yourself a lot of agony, if you admit to yourself that you can, in fact, live without becoming a Mrs. Mensch. There is nothing wrong with being single, but it's up to you to decide what you want for your future. Many people are unmarried, unattached,even celibate and happy. You have the choice.
Whose voice are you hearing in your head when it comes to marriage? Is it your own? Your mother's? Your father's? Your best frien's? Your dry cleaner's? Your manicurist's? The postman's? The pizza delivery guy's? The mensch next door's? Is it society telling you marriage is what you should want, rather than you saying it yourself?
Let's Get Started
It comes down to this: To find a mate, you must be open-minded, get out of the house, not judge someone in the first five minutes, and maintain a positive attitude. That might sound like a lot to think about, so let's start here. If you want to lose weight, it is often recommended that you use a visualization technique and act like a thin person. If you can imagine yourself slim, perhaps it will be easier to motivate yourself to spend more time in the gym, squeeze in that walk around the block, and pass on the Milky Way or Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream that you routinely eat on a dateless evening when you're feeling sorry for yourself. Imagining can make it feel like something attainable. Sure it's okay to indulge every now 'n then, but you don't want to make an ongoing date with Ben or Jerry!
Let's apply the same visualization principle to finding a mensch. Practice thinking like an active dater. Give people a chance. Have patience. Choose men who have the potential to take an interest in you. Schedule regular evenings out where you might meet someone. Get on the mailing or e-mail list from organizations or social groups whose events interest you. Revamp your wardrobe if you think it needs an update. Try a new hair salon and change your look to see who it attracts and if it makes you feel better about yourself.
When I lectured once about my first book, HOW TO MEET A MENSCH IN NEW YORK, before a crowd of close to 100 men and women in their 20s and 30s, I invited three of my single girlfriends to attend. It was a dinner social on a Friday evening after work. My presentation went over well, but as soon as it ended, I saw my friends in the rear of the room bolting for the door and sending me urgent hand signals to hurry so we could leave.
Before I could exit, however, I had to spend time signing copies of my book and give personal advice to people approaching me with specific questions. As this happened, I was approached by three good-looking, seemingly nice, intelligent guys who wanted to chat with me. While I talked to them, my eyes quickly searched for my three girlfriends who, of course, were no where to be found. All I could think of was what a lost opportunity for them to meet three potentially desirable men. It would have been worth a shot. They certainly didn't come that evening solely to speak to me.
Afterwards, driving home in the car, I asked my friends if they had fun and what they thought of the crowd. Not surprisingly, they labeled the evening "a big disappointment.... a waste of time, and lousy food to boot." When I told them about the three guys I met, they said, "Oh well. The crowd didn't look attractive overall, so we figured we would call it a night."
They lost out, and what a shame. While they made the effort to be there, were they really making a concerted effort to seize the socializing moment? What do you think? What would you say to yourself afterwards if you were one of these women who missed an opportunity? Would you have even realized that perhaps you lost out? It would have been in their best interests to at least give it their all. Instead, they gave it a next-to-nothing try.
The lesson here is to take a hard look at your socializing efforts. It's not enough to put yourself in a place where you might meet someone, if you have a habit of leaving a function or party before you give people a chance or typically spend time with the wrong kind of person for you. It takes some soul-searching and emotional strength to admit that there is more you could do to be a power socializer. You might have to seize the bull by the horns and make some major attitude adjustments, and that doesn't come easily for anyone.
Every Mensch Has A Mother
I can't end this chapter without addressing this critical topic. Every mensch has a mother, so what does that mean for you? True, you're not marrying his family, but he does come with a built-in set of in-laws, extended family and perhaps siblings, and you will be the new kid in the mishbucha (family), if you stand at the chuppah (marriage canopy at a wedding).
When meeting your mensch's parents and other relatives, ask yourself this: Do they welcome you with open arms or do you feel scrutinized? A little scrutiny is probably natural, but you don't want to feel like you're constantly being given the once-over. Do they express interest in your work and well-being? How do they get along with your parents and family? (At the very least, they have to respect and befriend each other at the wedding.)
Are these people you'd want to celebrate Thanksgiving with, among other holidays, birthdays, etc.? And, what are their expectations of you once you join the family? Does his mother cook a family dinner every Friday night that you must religiously attend? Are you expected to buy a house on the same block they live on? And what if you have children? Will they be excited and supportive, or make you feel like you don't know how to be a good mother?
Working Things Out
A difficult in-law situation can create a lot of tension for you and your mensch, so it's important to know what you might be facing from the get-go. I have heard many real-life stories on this subject, and it's amazing the challenges that in-laws can sometimes pose.
Risa, a friend, has shared with me the pressure she feels because her in-laws live in Israel, and when they come to the States to visit several times a year, they expect to stay with her and her husband and their young child. While she and her husband have adequate space for his parents, Risa never knows exactly how long they'll be staying, and is expected to do their laundry, cook meals, etc., on top of taking care of her toddler son. And, her husband does little to help because he feels that this is a wife's "job." She loves her husband and accepts his belief system, but she has her moments of frustration when she gets overwhelmed.
A woman I know, Kari, tells the story of her father-in-law and how he openly criticizes her in front of her young daughter and makes her feel like she's an inadequate mother. She struggles to get him to respect her, but it's not easy.
Jill, a friend, has discussed with me how each time her mother-in-law comes to visit (thankfully, for her sake, not often), she takes it upon herself to rearrange Jill's cabinets. She has a system for organizing dishes that she feels Jill should adopt. Jill is used to it, and has learned to try to look at it in a humorous way, but at the beginning, it felt very demeaning.
This is not by any means to imply that it's not possible to have a warm, loving, inviting relationship with your future in-laws. It's also not to say that all family situations are perfect. If you are looking for that, finding a spouse will become that much more challenging. Have an awareness of the nature of the family you're potentially entering in to, so you are not completely caught off guard. If your prospective in-laws are very different than you, that is okay, as long as there is mutual respect. You don't have to hang out together all the time, but you don't want to be at perpetual odds either.
My friend Ellie and her husband, bought a house right next door to his parents. They loved the area, and when the house unexpectedly came up for sale, they jumped on it. Ellie adores her in-laws, and even though they are next-door neighbors, they don't spend every waking moment together. However, being that close gives them all a strong sense of family and security, and that's a real bonus to any relationship.
Another woman I know, Tara, got married and bought a house in the same neighborhood as her parents but wound up living at home with her parents and her husband. Tara and her husband have been remodeling the house for several years now, but Tara admits that she is so close to her parents that they socialize as couples and she doesn't know if they'll ever live in the house they bought. They might just wind up selling it and making a profit. Tara's spouse is agreeable to living with her parents. This domestic arrangement would surely not be for everyone!
The Mensch Doesn't Fall Far > From the Tree
Remember that a mensch doesn't fall far from the family tree, so you want to take a look at his parents to get a better indication of who he really is. Do they appear to be mensches? Is their marriage solid and supportive? Are they excited that their son has found someone who makes him happy or is his mother threatened by you? Of course, he won't be exactly like them, but you might get a sense of those qualities, good or bad, that he has inherited from his parents. It can help to understand his attitude toward life if you spend a time talking with his folks and seeing how they view things. Were they raised during the Depression, and how did that impact them? Are they downbeat, critical people who rarely pay a complement? What interests do they have? Is your future husband afraid to speak up to them?
If one or more of his parents is, unfortunately, deceased, then you obviously won't have the same opportunity. But, you can also learn a lot about the kind of person your mensch is by noting his attitude toward a departed parent. How does he talk about his parents? Is it evident that he loved them? Does he discuss them often, and with fond remembrance? Does he display favorite photos of them? Does he walk around depressed over the loss even though it was quite some time ago? (This could be a red flag that he's never gotten over it.)
When you can marry a mensch, and he comes with a mensch family, you have the best of all marital worlds.
Exercise: Make Your Mensch Checklist
I hate the word checklist, but most people have one, so let's take a look at yours. Take out your Socializing Notebook. On a sheet, make two columns and list in one column 15 qualities (it there are that many) that you are seeking in a mensch. In the other column, list what you don't want in a mate. Then cross out five traits from each column that you could accept not having on your list. What you have just created is a more realistic "checklist" of what to look for in someone.
To give you some idea of how to go about this. In the column with the traits you are seeking, you might look for such things as physical appeal, cleanliness, views toward life, desire for children, smarts, energy, chemistry, compassion, common sense, and relationship with family.
In the column with those qualities you can't tolerate, give consideration to such things as dishonesty, temperament, drug or alcohol usage, smoking, politeness, irresponsible spending habits, and gambling.
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