Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

The Danger of Paper

September 19, 2012 1:52 am 0 comments

Heart in hand. Photo: Louise Docker.

When I began dating a cute guy with an incredible education and job, I felt like I had found the kind of man that only exists in Nora Ephron movies. My friends were anything from impressed to jealous before they even met him and we lived happily ever after for about eight minutes. I still don’t know if I fell for him or for who I thought he was. (Then there was the time I dreamed of a young pediatrician just because his name was pronounced “Alone.” I’m clearly all the wiser for it.) We often don’t know who someone is unless we give him or her a chance and a little bit of time, and yet…

Jews, perhaps as a result of our accomplishments, fall prey to what looks good on paper—literally and metaphorically: Orthodox Jews may refer to shidduch resumes which are emailed and faxed to families in the pursuit of romantic matches. Secular Jews often assess education, job title, and residence to determine whether a date should even happen. It’s like our CliffsNotes for getting to know people. I’m not suggesting anyone take a moonlit stroll on the beach with her local sex offender (though one can access their photos and contact information without paying a comparable dating site fee!), but do bullet points on a resume help us to find real menschs?

The dearth of etymological information about the expression “Good on paper,” might suggest that its origins are not important enough to write down. (As a writer, I certainly take offense at this. As a Jew, I’ll admit we got screwed over with the White Paper of 1939.) Whatever the case, the saying reaffirms a basic concept—like not judging a book by its cover, things aren’t always what they seem, and a host of other clichés that you’ll never read here again—but it’s still easy to be fooled. For instance, some people eat mediocre meals cooked under the auspices of celebrity chefs, some buy designer shoes that give them the same blisters as the cheap ones, and in matters of the heart, some would rather brag about their amazing significant other than spend actual time together.

If you look solely at someone’s credentials, you deny the essence of the person—the part that can’t be captured by a degree or pedigree. It puts rigid boundaries on what love and happiness are even though they can mean different things at different points in your life. It can keep you in an unfulfilling relationship or stop you from embarking on a great one. It can also lead to a censorship of genuine emotion—at its worst, affecting a multiple personality disorder like “honorary Jew” Edward Norton in that non-Nora Ephron film (he ended up in a mental hospital).

Why do we try to break down love like it’s a compound in chemistry class? Does it provide us comfort or give us a sense of control? Is it that we feel how short life truly is and want an efficient way to find a partner for life? If you can freeze your eggs or take Viagra®, perhaps the investment of time doesn’t have to be so daunting. Avoid the paper trail shortcut and take time to understand a person’s substance.

Sasha Ingber is a freelance writer whose work focuses on relationships, travel and dance. She is currently a graduate student in Johns Hopkins University’s writing program.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Why do we think so negatively about psychiatrists that we still insult them by calling them shrinks? Some medics might be quacks, but we don’t generally refer to them as witches! Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry, by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is a sobering account of how psychiatry has swung from a marginal, unscientific mixture of weird theories into one of the most common and pervasive forms of treatment of what are commonly called “disorders of the mind.” Is it […]

    Read more →