How to remain neutral with the boys in college

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    I go to a secular college and their are a few boys in my class. Because I’m in nursing school, the same people (and boys) show up in all my classes. This wasn’t a problem when I was doing prereqs because I saw the same people, maybe once or twice a week, and never had any reason to learn anyone’s name. I’m having a hard time balancing being a polite person (and making not making a chillul Hashem because they all know who I am) and at the same time keeping my distance.

    Any tips?


    Err on the side of distance and not on the side of being polite. The potential consequences of otherwise are too great to contemplate.


    HRH: but shouldn’t she answer them if they say good morning first or if they ask her a question related to the nursing material? you still have to be a mensch.

    HUDI: just be a little distant, give a slight cold shoulder. and hopefully they will get the hint.



    I second heh


    You might just have been put in this place in order to show them how wonderful is your holy lifestyle.


    When its a choice of too friendly or cold-shoulder, cold shoulder is the way. If its possible, be professional. When its too difficult, go the cold shoulder route, that will give you the strength to be professional by the time you graduate.

    Your neshoma is the most important thing here


    I agree with Oomis. You need to act like a professional


    Be professional.

    Let them know that you have a need for some space.

    Speak in measured words.

    For those who are not aware, nurses deal with all kinds of private issues every day to the point that they may seem mundane to them. I have relatives who are nurses, who tell me that their coworkers talk is often not tsniut. They can become desensitized.


    … just to qualify this statement, how extensive is your experience dealing with/as an American college* student(s)?

    and even so, it must be “sanctity” to which the person can relate. Rudeness will just turn people off, and is itself the opposite of the sanctity we seek as a means to be megaleh the shchinah in the world.

    btw … did i start a trend with the good.jew taking after yid.period??



    did i start a trend with the good.jew taking after yid.period??

    Imitation is the greatest flattery.

    just to qualify this statement, how extensive is your experience dealing with an American college student

    BTW, quite a bit of experience.

    and even so, it must be “sanctity” to which the person can relate. Rudeness will just turn people off, and is itself the opposite of the sanctity we seek as a means to be megaleh the shchinah in the world.

    Please re-read the OP. Once done, lets try and honestly relate to the OP whose reaction is a definite, not just to the “American college student” whose reaction is hypothetical. Thank you


    For the Jews, tell them no. i.e. “you are a Bais Yaakov girl”.

    For the non-jews, tell them you don’t touch men for religious reasons, but feel free to “be friendly”. They have no shaychus with you, and are not a threat.


    cold shoulder and rudeness can be damaging as well, for example they may think all Jews are rude….you can be polite and professional without crossing the line…many frum yids are able to navigate the secular workplace without problems….



    Not sure what your point is at the end. OP wants to know how to scale her interaction at college; I gave my two cents and disagreed with your generalization of American college students at large. In any case, you brought up the generic motivations of the “American college student”… so … yea?


    You have to find middle ground — not rude, but not too friendly.


    They know you’re Shomer Negiah, right (both the jewish and non-jewish students)? I think that once that’s clear to everyone, it eliminates a lot of problems.

    Be good TO them, not WITH them. Smile when you say good morning, but make sure your smile says nothing more than “Good Morning” Guys will pick up the messages from your body language. You just make sure to convey the right message.

    Good luck!


    Wear a ring.

    Pashuteh Yid

    This cold shoulder business is the opposite of all midos tovos. Perish the thought. Chas vchalila. One can be extremely warm and kind, and still not cross any lines. One should greet everybody b’sever panim yafos, offer to help in any way, ask them how their day is and how their family is doing, etc.

    Only with extreme warmth is the essential message of yiddishkeit transmitted. Still, one doesn’t have to touch anybody, or get involved with anything off-color. Just be warm and kind and friendly and outgoing. It is so pashut, I don’t even know what is the shayla.


    its not surprising that some people dont even know what the shayla is


    sometimes a Jew has to act in a manner that the goyim might not approve of

    i dont know if this is one of those times

    but its not pashut that one must be concerned about not appearing rude when ones eternal life is at stake

    be good

    I’m assuming you are single- and I would go with apushatayid’s suggestion of wearing a ring. Except that you don’t have to actually wear a ring (although it does help).

    But you could just send out the vibe/message that you are married/ taken. (I try to think about how I feel when I’m dating someone seriously and a different guy gets suggested/ tries to talk to me) It makes a person want take a certain step back on an emotional level while still being open and nice.

    You need to imagine and act as if you are married- so they get the message that you are ‘taken/not available’ but are just being friendly.

    I used to make references to the guy I was dating (pretending that it was a long term thing so that they would see it as serious and leave me alone). But if you’re just starting out and they don’t know you yet… pretend you are married- it really makes things easier.

    Do not feel that you have to go for lunch or whatever with the group if you are not comfortable with that (go with the women if you are comfortable with that- you don’t want to come across as a total loner)

    It’s hard to learn how to balance this- but it’s a very valuable lesson to learn, and well worth the slight discomfort in the beginning.

    Good luck!

    Avram in MD

    This cold shoulder business is the opposite of all midos tovos. Perish the thought. Chas vchalila. One can be extremely warm and kind, and still not cross any lines. One should greet everybody b’sever panim yafos,

    I mostly agreed with you, up until…

    offer to help in any way, ask them how their day is and how their family is doing, etc.

    Helping with boundaries is no problem, but helping “in any way” is, since college students frequently blend social and academic activity. Think, “can we study for the exam over dinner?”

    The remaining examples risk crossing the boundaries of professionalism. One can be approachable and friendly without discussing details of personal lives.

    If I were back in college, I would try to reserve most interactions for the in-class setting, and pick same-gender lab partners.


    Being polite and remaining distance are not contradictions. Be careful what you share with your classmates or colleagues as the case may be. If you don’t share any personal info, they will look at you as a private person. Most people who work in an office have to deal with this on a daily basis.


    Many years ago, I would frequent a pizza shop. The counterman was a Mexican and being that I went there so often I would say hello to him. Once I was the only one there, and he asked me if I would like to go with him that night to a party. I couldn’t believe it. From a simple hello, he understood i was interested in him! He was insulted when I said no. I made it my business to never again make this mistake. I am never friendly to men by the counters of any store even if I’m there very often.

    It seems here that people think making a kiddush Hashem means acting in a way that the goyim will think well of us. It isn’t. It’s acting the way a Jewish person is supposed to behave. In yiddishkeit, opposite genders are suppossed to behave distant from each other.


    flowers you didnt go out with him?

    you disappointed him?

    you hurt his feelings?

    maybe even publicly embarrassed him?

    this was against all good Middos and a chilul Hashem.

    you should have gone out with him and over dinner explained to him what it means to b a Jewish woman and why you cant go out with him again (unless not going out a second time will be a chilul Hashem)

    Pashuteh Yid

    One can handle situations such as getting asked to study for an exam over dinner with warmth, as well. One just says, Thanks so much for asking, but I study better at home.

    I assume the OP is not dorming at the college, just commuting. Being a commuter makes it quite easy to take classes, do what work you have to, be nice to people, and then go home. One doesn’t have to actively participate in social gatherings, since one is usually not there in the evenings when they happen.

    Even if one is dorming, there are quite a few schools that have clusters of frum kids who spend their time together, and not in general campus social life. Some have active batei medrash that have ongoing shiurim and chavrusas.

    As far as Mod-80’s concern that one’s eternal life is at stake, why does being rude not also put one’s eternal life at stake? We know that even though arayos is one of the big three, yet one who says I will let a woman drown, rather than carrying her to safety is a chosid shoteh. Bein adam lachaveiro is just as important to one’s eternal life, if not more so. See Rosh on first page of meseches Peya in the big shas. He says that the RBSH gets more nachas from ben adam lachaveiro than ben adam lamakom.

    Pashuteh Yid

    Chilul Hashem depends on what the average guy on the street says about the fellow. See Yoma 86, Mi shediburo bnachas im habriyos, Mah habriyos omrim alav, etc. It doesn’t say what do the gedolei hador say about him, it says briyos.

    For example, people who make a big minyan on the plane, and block the aisles and the bathrooms and crash into all the other passengers and crew are making a chilul hashem. People think it is rude. We don’t say, too bad, a Jew is supposed to daven with a minyan, tough luck to all the rest of you. Rather, chilul hashem depends on the onlookers.

    As far as getting asked out by the Pizza man, all one has to do is say it is so nice of you to think of me, but my parents want me to date Jewish guys, or my parents pick out my dates, etc.


    were not talking about saving a life. we arent talking about even saying cruel things or similar forms of rudeness. we are talking about whether or not there is a SHAYLA (as some have said there is not) of withholding warmth even though it may be perceived as being “rude” by american liberal goyish standards.

    we have our standards.


    minyon on a plane

    of course

    but one has to use seichel

    there are times when one needs to refrain from what would otherwise do when it will cause a chilul Hashem

    and there are times when one must not

    it is usually a shayla but one always has to use seichel and sometimes ask a Talmid Chochum

    what Hashem wants comes first, ALWAYS, not what the goyim will think.

    IF in this case it is better to risk possible unforseen disastrous events that may eventually arise from an innocent display of friendliness and warmth, then so be it.

    if not, then so be it. but it is a consideration and a shayla.

    a crucial one


    I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone is recommending not to be polite and professional. giving the “cold shoulder” to others who are just being polite in a professional setting is a recipe for unemployment. Take a look at gemorah Succah daf 42b for an amazing example (amazing to Abaye, at least)of friendly yet chaste interaction between a man and a woman.


    Yenting yenta and tbt – I did give the cold shoulder, and I think it helped, but I don’t want them to get the impression that frum jews are rude people. I need to figure out how to have a professional, no mess relationship.

    gavra and mytake- I haven’t told them that I don’t touch men for religious reasons. The muslims (there are one or two), i think, realize this. My problem is the typical american guys that really haven’t got a clue. And your teacher just happens to pair you up with them for a group project. How do I go about telling them. How do I initiate the conversation. Is email ok, or too nonconfrontational? should i just email all the boys?

    gavra – I don’t think I should feel free to be friendly. Im not initiating any conversation here. obviusly, I dont ignore them when they talk to me. but im not going to joke with them etc.

    a pashuta – the ring idea is a good idea. Ive heard of men being advised to wear a wedding band in the face of women in their law office.

    Pashuteh Yid – I agree with you to a point. what you are saying can apply to any secualar person. you can be friendly, but never too friendly. I’m speaking specifically about men that you don’t want to be friendly with. just neutral. Also, I’m not trying show them how wonderful yiddishkeit is. Im trying to show them what it’s *not*.

    The questions I have for everyone are how to act professional and how to tell them that i’m shomer negiah.


    Dear Flowers,

    The pizza man’s actions indicated that he was interested in you. I’m sure that nothing you said or did gave any indication that you were interested in him (unless, of course you were secretly attracted to him). As another has posted, all you had to do was say, “no, thanks” and tell him how many slices you wanted.


    She should wear a wedding band? Come on!

    And what will she do if someone asks her a question about her husband? Make stuff up? and if she gets engaged/married during her time in school? It will become obvious that the whole thing was a charade…and she will have a lot of awkward explaining to do.

    This balancing act will continue to be an issue when entering the workforce. You need a way of DEALING with it, not avoiding it!

    Each person has to make their own gedarim. It’s possible to be reserved and refined, and still act like a mentsch.


    “when ones eternal life is at stake”

    When viewed through this prism, why put yourself in this situation to begin with?

    “And what will she do if someone asks her a question about her husband? Make stuff up?”

    He’s fine. I dont like to discuss my personal life with non family members.

    Wedding bands go a LONG way to keeping people away from you. I have been working for almost 17 years and have found this to be the case time and time again. In fact, when one of my coworkers found out I was married (she assumed I wasnt because I do not wear a band) she asked incredulously, “how do you keep from getting into trouble!”. A wedding band is “respected” and people back off, that is how it works in the non jewish world.



    B”H you haven’t lost the sensitivity to Tznius (and mentshlichkeit) as is obvious from your last post. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for some of the other posters.

    Regarding your question: I think that a good way to inform your male classmates about your hands-off rule, is to wait until you are in a group project situation like you mentioned, and in a light, casual way let eveyone in the group know that as an orthodox jew you are prohibited by Torah law to have physical contact with the opposite gender.

    Smile while you say it (NOT APOLOGETICALLY!) in a way that says “I’m not trying to make a big deal out of this, let’s keep the mood here comfortable; and I can still take part in group discussions like everyone else.” But make sure you sound firm.

    (Sort of like when you would explain to your co-worker why you cannot enjoy the box of chocolate that she brought you for New Years. Friendly but firm.)

    They most likely never heard of this before, and may ask questions or be a little awkward around you in the beginning. But keep up a friendly, albeit slightly distant demeanor and they’ll realize you’re actually normal! (except for this wierd no-touching religious quirk…)

    Btw- Don’t forget to ask Hashem for Hatzlacha!

    I envy your opportunity here to make such a tremendous Kiddush Hashem.

    Good Luck!


    There is no shayla. Rudeness is NEVER permitted. My charedi teachers and my modern orthodox teachers have all said this over and over again.

    And what some seem to forget is that undesired advances are themselves unprofessional. A simple, “no” to a social invitation MUST be respected.

    jewish unity

    It’s pretty clear to me that the answer is to not be rude, and be polite and professsional instead. If you don’t feel you are able to be polite and cordial without compromising your yiddishkeit, it might be good to reevaluate whether this is the best thing for you to do.(Sry, I really don’t mean to be so blunt) Maybe talk it over with your Rebbeim or Moros. But you definitely need to be confident in your ability to walk the fine line of being polite and normal without being dragged into anything against yiddishkeit. Hope this helps and please say what you think.


    Be good – yes I am single. I’m thinking about the ring idea, but the semester started 2 months ago and if I start wearing a ring, people will start asking me lots of questions, which i dont want to lie to answer.

    Jewish unity – I thought about nursing and I decided it would be fine. It’s a women’s dominated field. About 8 or 9 percent of my class are men, which is considered a lot, more than other years. I decided on gedarim for myself during seminary, when i decided to go into nursing. I don’t wear makeup, dress more modestly, don’t initiate conversation with men, and avoid grouping/ studying with men. These have worked for me.


    Thank you everyone for your answers. They really clarified for me what is important and what is at stake.

    I would like to know how a person acts professionally. (This will help me in the future as a nurse as well.)And any tips about telling people you are shomer negiah would be great.

    Thank you 🙂


    jewish unity

    I don’t think I’m really qualified to answer what it is to be professional since i’ve never been in the professional workplace-but i’ll pitch in anyways:) I would imagine it’s just to be courteous, respectful, and cooperative. I think in the professional fields (medical, lawyer etc;) their standards on these things won’t contradict the Torah (usually) so basically follow their standards in these areas (unless it comes to directly contradict the Torah of course and then deal with those situations on a case by case basis)


    People respect those who are honest and upfront. A simple, “my religion does not permit physical contact with members of the opposite gener” (or some variation you are comfortable with) is something people understand and respect.

    The last “harrasment training” seminar I had to sit through made it pretty clear that any and all physical contact can be construed as harrasment and everyone was advised to avoid it at all costs, to the point where I work the only time you will ever see any contact is a handshake and that can be avoided using the statement above.

    Just be consistent in whatever you do.


    Mod 80: lol. I hope somebody besides me “chapped” your humor. I totally agree with you.

    flowers: Your story gave me the chills.

    apusheteyid: I think wearing a ring is a great idea.

    m in Israel

    hudi — Yasher Koach for being proactive about this area. It is so easy to underestimate the risks involved in a situation like this. As far as the negiah goes, I think mytake’s approach is very sensible. Sending out a mass email makes it into an issue. I think you are much better off explaining as the need arises, in a very matter of fact way.

    As far as the bigger issue, I think that some on this thread are misunderstanding “cold”. It doesn’t seem that anyone is advocating rudeness. What is appropriate, however, is to come across as slightly reserved and private. Actually, that is very much a part of professionalism. It is not “professional” to mix personal life with your profession. One may choose to have both a personal and professional relationship with others, but that is a choice, not a requirement, and one who chooses not to do so is not being rude.

    When I worked in the secular work place the men I worked with knew that I had no problem answering work related questions, helping out with something they needed guidance on, etc. But when the conversation turned to personal life, I was quiet. Not rude, but just nonresponse or short to the point responses. No one perceived me as rude — just as a private individual. They get the feeling very quickly. (I was married, and they were aware of it, but I don’t think that is enough in today’s world in any case.)

    Additionally, they usually pick up very quickly that you have different standards. I often had co-workers apologize to me after using nivul peh in front of me — they’d look up and notice I was around and kind of get red and say “oh, sorry!” and I would just give a small smile and nod. I never said anything to anyone about nivul peh, but they understood instinctively that as a frum woman my standards were different.


    it is very hard to maintain that balance – i agree that you have to act normal and nice (this is going to be a continuous problem in getting a job, at work place) – if act rude, will be very difficult for you in jobs. Fortunately, in nursing, i would imagine that it’s mostly women, so stick around the women, especially those who also like to stick around the women. do NOT be overly friendly to the men at all – be nice, formal, and professional.

    after a while, they’ll see that you’re different and will respect the difference.

    do NOT hang out with them at other times – do go to the library, places that are separate, during free times.

    it’s a tricky balance, but must maintain that balance if working in secular environment.

    it can be done – just must always be careful – and not act as free and extroverted as normally would do among your frum friends.


    Be strong, its a very difficult position. One thing i’ve heard also is that there is a very subtle but BIG difference in being polite and a smile than a smile and wink… or body language which suggests more than just being polite Hatzlocha


    picture different people you know – i’m sure that there are some highly energetic people who are super-friendly and have their energy levels far out of their body – you do not want that.

    then maybe you know or can imagine someone, like a rebbetzin who is nice, or even a nurse, whi is kind, but they are more closed – their energy is closer to their bodies.

    that is fantastic that you’ve set up for yourself gedarim! just remember to always be somewhat on guard.

    rabbi orlovsky on his platonic tape addresses this issue briefly at around the 65min. mark on sinple to remember.

    that’s great that you care – keep it up! 🙂


    m in Israel: I couldn’t have put it better. That was exactly my experience too.


    actually, i recommend listening to the whole rabbi orlovsky tape – it reinforces the importance of not getting too friendly between “genders” and just reminds you to be careful.

    jewish unity

    I think m in israel got it right on.

    sof davar- you’re right, but that’s completely dependent on how u feel inside-if you feel attracted or unattracted that Will come out in your body language either way it is…unless of course you know how to control your body language


    I work with goyim all day, and I don’t think I ever had to tell anyone that I don’t touch the other gender. I shake hands when I have to, and that is it. I have never had issues…. I just act professionally


    Thank you mytake for your take 🙂 I did’t see you up there before. You gave very practical advice.

    apashuta – yes, consistency is very important

    m in israel – very helpful, thank you. I’ve not been so fortunate to have the cursing stop around me. Once in while, but you know – these are college students. They turn curse words into nouns, verbs, and adjectives you name it. Not all of them curse, the refined ones don’t.

    binah – im going to try that rabbi orlofsky shiur. thanks for your advice

    sof davar and jewish unity – i agree 100% about the body language.

    good.jew – how do you act professionally?


    Moderator 80, causing Chilul HaShem is definitely playing with one’s eternal life. Causing non-Jews to think that frum Jews are rude people is definitely Chilul HaShem. Dovid haMelech gave over members of Shaul’s family to be killed to avoid Goyim having ta’anos. It is a gemora in Yavomos.

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