Every year there is a summer learning program at the Yeshiva College which I look forward to every year. This year I will probably only be able to make several days and not the whole program unfortunately. I have my Havrusa with an Adass lady a weekly basis when we study the weekly parsha and I would love to add another learning hour into my week if I could find some one to learn Chassidus with by phone at night. However, the learning that takes place starting on the 25th of December every year is something special. We get to experience the depth and breadth of the learning of many talented and special Rabbonim and rebbetzins.
Today the first shuir for the women was Taffy Aron talking about Facebook and intimacy. Unfortunately I missed some of it as I took longer with the goat milking this morning than I anticipated. What Taffy had to say about Facebook and how it is used in today's world and how it impacts on our perceptions of the world and our relationships with others was frightening and indeed what I heard gave much food for thought. His main point was the fact that people are sharing far too much of their personal life with others to the extent it has eroded our level of family privacy to such a degree that there is nothing left to share with a spouse or family. It is all out there on Facebook. Embarrassed laughter broke out when he gave the example of a woman announcing on Facebook that 'her waters had broken.' Even I, a normally very open person would not share that detail, thank you very much and maybe the person who did thought better of it later. In essence, his talk made me think very seriously about what I have previously shared on Facebook about relationships with my biological family and even personal details of my life that I should perhaps be sharing with a counselor or mentor about events that have impacted on my life and realistically I have thought that being alone for ten years has made me more open in one way to sharing details of my life and my child's life that I should not. I guess, what I am saying is sometimes you crave someone to bounce ideas off and it is not such a good idea as there are a lot of creepy people out there who can give you the wrong advice or advice that is in essence flawed.
The fact is that when you have a partner like a husband, you do your sharing with him and not on FaceBook. I have to say, on that level, having a partner makes your more private because what you are sharing has to impact on another person and you cannot share without checking with him and by the time you check, 'Oh dear, do you mind if I tell the world that I cooked us a nice vegie soup and made a tuna pie tonight?' the need for sharing has gone because you have shared it with him. I am of course, not going to tell the world that you hated my chicken with a plum sauce, but I will state that you loved my cholent with smoked bone and pumpkin.
I guess having a husband would be like having an in house censor/editor.When you are single, maybe you are more out there and more vulnerable.
What do you share on FaceBook? How do we use FaceBook and certainly we need to think about how our children are using FaceBook? FaceBook is the antithesis of being Jewishly correct and tznius on a very personal level. Certainly one should leave the relationship status of your FaceBook profile blank unless of course you are happily married and want to advertise it. I have never updated my profile status and would not, even if there was something to report. If I had dated in the last 10 years which I have not, it would be no one's business but mine and the other person's. I would not want anyone to know until I was engaged if that was to ever happen, then date set for nuptials. Nobody needs to know if you are dating, living with someone, breaking up with someone or getting together with someone. Taffy was spot on that this sort of thing is very counterproductive to intimacy and personal privacy.
Personally, I think FaceBook should be pretty much Adults Only sort of like sex. Yes, we know that there are children out there experimenting, but giving them sex education is not going to stop STD's, prevent teenage pregnancies or enhance and improve their relationships with the opposite sex. There is an age for sex between consenting adults and while it is preferable for two people to be blessed with the sanctity of a marriage ceremony before physical intimacy takes place, we live in an age where such things are viewed a lot more casually than they used to be.
I am of the opinion that we need to improve the level of intimacy between children and their parents to prevent the sorts of abuse that our children are potentially open to from strangers and even 'friends' on the net. We need to keep the channels of communication open at all times between our spouses and our children. I need not add, through medium like FaceBook or My Space. We need face to face human contact with friends and family from time to time. We need to sit and have coffee or brunch with mates that is between us and not others and not shared with others.
I moved to the country to preserve my sanity and the sanity of my child in a pure environment away from the corrupting influences of city life. I remember many years ago as a pretty stupid and naive young woman of 17 and a half, fresh out of six years of an all girls boarding school floundering in my dealing with the opposite sex and even with how to handle the bitchiness and falseness of relationships between women. I had no idea and when I got involved at 18 years of age with a 36 year old rather degenerate man in Melbourne far from home and having no idea how to conduct myself in the 'new age of freedom' I got some very rude shocks in my young life which marked me for quite some years and I would not wish what happened to me on anyone.
What this made me realise however is that those who believe that we can protect children by decreasing the age by which we educate them about sex, alcohol and drugs are living in a fools' paradise. you only have to look at the phenomena of schoolies week to see how futile that approach has been.
What we need to do is to educate and instill in young people a set of values that will allow them see illicit sex and drug or alcohol taking as undesirable and perhaps for them to realise the consequences of such before they try such behaviour. I remember being told as a young woman by a man that 'I like to test drive something before I buy it.' I had no answer for that kind of attitude in the 1970's. Today with the hindsight of experience, I would advise a young woman to tell any man who would say that to her,'Great you go out and buy yourself a second hand car if that is what you are after. I am not a bloody car and if I was I would be a customized model built for only one man and out of your price range.' Now I will have to wait until next lifetime to use that line. Worst luck. The price range I am talking about has nothing to do with monetary value though.
I think that a lot of young women today do suffer from low self esteem because of the looseness of the sexual values and lack of importance placed on physical intimacy with only one person. We were conned into seeing ourselves as free and that to make ourselves available was a good thing. It was very destructive to be so available to so many and many women today are realizing that cultivating friendships that are not based on physical intimacy is far more humanising for both men and women. Yes, there are people who do operate on a very physical level and there always will be those people who do so and they are quite happy to do so.
However, I personally feel a great sense of loss that I did not meet someone at eighteen or nineteen and marry and have that long term relationship with the one person and have children with them and perhaps I would have even been a grandmother several times over by now.
You cannot attain the level of intimacy in a short term relationship that you can with a relationship that has stood the test of time over say twenty, thirty or forty or even fifty plus years. The level of personal growth and understanding of the other person is there and even if you do not see it or are blind to it, it is always there for you and your spouse. It is up to the two people concerned to make sure that the relationship between them is kept alive and nurtured. A relationship is like a tree or even a very fragile baby animal. It needs constant attention and exclusive attention to thrive. Some relationships are hardy and will survive with minimum care and even the occasional cyclone or storm to batter it. However it is ideal that you do work through and maintain a relationship. Nothing should be left to chance. There is a saying that the couple that fight together, are more likely to stay together. It is in my extensive experience, the cold silences, the breakdown of communication, the separating of ways that destroys a relationship. If you can have a good fight now and then, it shows you are interested enough to struggle with what is uncomfortable in the relationship and to maintain it. It is like a car repair, if you do not care, that knocking will just get worst until the car completely breaks down. A person in a relationship does worry about the other, whether it is a friend or spouse. Friends of course, have to know when to step back and respect the intimacy of a friendship in different ways to a spouse. There are somethings and information that friends should never be privy to in a relationship. That is seen as very old fashioned in this day and age of open doors in all compartments of life, but if the building and home is to be preserved, we must close the doors on some areas of life and teach our children to do the same.
I want to end with a really shocking story. I was horrified to see the posts of a girl who is on my facebook and I have made the mother's friend aware of what I saw and unfortunately read on her Facebook. Apart from the fact, I am wondering how she got onto my account, she uses language that I know about but do not use and she talks about things that I as an adult would be extremely squeamish if any one I was friendly with spoke in that manner. To be honest, she was talking like some of the workers I used to take from their places of work to their homes. I used to do taxi driving at night. I used to try and knock off before four am. The brothels used to close down about then. Great fares although they used to be pretty disappointed to get me as a driver because they often used to offer to work off their fares with the male drivers. Me, they had to give cash as it was the only legal tender I accepted. A lot of them would go out to Noble Park and Dandenong or Cranbourne. Great fares, but they used to talk about their work on the way home and often I would feel like taking a very hot and long shower afterwards. It was actually really disgusting. Often I would feel close to throwing up and used the Ajax spray liberally on the back seats afterwards.
There are many facets of life out there that we are better not knowing about and working at setting our children on the right tracks in life that they do not fall into such paths. Education, education and more education is the only way. I thank G-D have worked to preserve my child's innocence and raise him in the paths of Torah, humanity and compassion. It is better that he does not have contact with children or adults who are exposed to sexual immorality, drug abuse and suspect values. It makes life hard and if it means living out in the country seven or eight kilometres from a small town and having his life controlled then so be it. I lived on a property until I was 11 and a half with only my two brothers and my parents. We rode our bikes to my grandmother's house eight miles away but that was the only other contact we had except for a workman's children and even those were kept at a distance. Then I went to boarding school. An all girls school. I will however not do what my parents did to me. I will endeavour to educate my son as to the pitfalls that may await him out there in the real world and endeavour to have him married as quickly as possible once he turns nineteen and has a suitable trade to support a wife and children. We have blurred the lines between right and wrong, between what is good and bad to the extent that we have created much unhappiness for the future generations because of an attitude of permissiveness.