DovBear's recent post about Shidduchim got me thinking to an episode earlier in my life.
I happened to consider myself very lucky. Why, do you ask? Very simple... I met my wife on my own. I didn't have to endure the shidduch scene. I happened to marry the second girl I ever went out with... and I don't regret it for a moment.
When my wife and I met, we were very young. I was only 18 and just starting my first year of college. She was in high school. It wasn't planned, but we just happened to meet and knew that we were going to marry each other. It wasn't a matter of if, just a matter of when.
I first met my father-in-law about a month or so later. When I first met him, he was sitting shiva for his father. It was certainly an unusual way to meet one's future in-laws. Fortunately, I seemed to have impressed him enough. So, I never had to go through the whole "shidduch" scene, the "checking out" of the perspective spouse and family and the whole "money" thing. As "unJewish" as it sounds, we simply fell in love and that was that.
During the three years between the time we met and the time we finally married, my sister (who is about three years younger than I) was terribly upset at me. Not necessarily because of the girl I was dating (they soon learned to get along and become friends) but because she felt that my actions were costing her a potential good shidduch. She felt that I was "ruining" her name with my actions.
Well, all's well that ends well. She ended up with a very fine shidduch, she's married to a wonderful mentsch and we're all very happy. I guess I didn't ruin her life after all. :)
But, all flippancy aside, how is it that we've set up a system where people are held to account for other people's actions? There are circles where, if one family member goes "off the derech," it leaves a black mark on the entire family. Heaven forbid if a sibling breaks an engagement or gets a divorce; that could seriously diminish a younger sibling's chances of getting an acceptable match. It's one thing if the prospective bride or groom themselves has a broken engagement/divorce; but I see no reason to stigmatize the rest of the family. The same goes true for any other actions that someone in the family may commit. You're not marrying that person's brother, sister, aunt, uncle or grandparent - you're marrying the person - and you should look to that person's qualities. Punishing them for something that they have no control over is simply not fair. And besides, I'm willing to bet just about everyone has some skeletons in their family closet.
And while we're at it - was this the norm in the "freidikia doros" (previous generations)? Were prospective brides and grooms checked out as thouroughly 100 years ago as they are today? Did anyone really go around "hiring" private investigators to find out about tablecloths, robes, snoods/wigs and/or extended family? Or is this a recent form of insanity?