Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Singles -- Learn to Think For Yourselves!

I think that Cheryl Kupfer is rapidly becoming one of my favorite columnists over at The Jewish Press. Her column today (again about shidduchim) hit a nerve with me.

In this week's column, she relates the story of a not-so-young woman in her 30s (and closer to 40) who was still single. Her friend, a shadchan (matchmaker), redt her (proposed a date) to a never-been-married man. Although she wasn't exactly what he was looking for, he apparently thought that there might be some possibility there agreed to see her. Once he agreed, the shadchan approached the woman about the date. What happened next? Ms. Kupfer tells us:

Once this “girl’ was told that this young man was interested, she got in touch with a mentor who is involved in a shidduch group and who, no doubt had been looking out for her. This woman, however, after being given the boy’s information “just didn’t see it” and suggested to this almost 40-year-old not go out with him. She turned down the shidduch.

What was the reaction from the shadchan?

“Do you know how many people I never thought to set up because ‘I didn’t see it’ are now happily married?” my friend exclaimed, visibly agitated. “What would it have hurt if she just met with him? What did she have to lose?”

Lest you think that this is an isolated case, I can tell you that it is not. I have seen similar cases with my own eyes. I know of a woman who is in her early 30s and will not date someone unless her mentor (a man whom I know and who really does have her best interests in mind) checks him out and gives the OK.

Whenever I hear cases like these, I always ask myself the following questions:

1. It's a date, not a marriage proposal! As long as you're reasonably sure he's not an axe-murderer or a rapist, why not go on a date? What (aside from an evening) have you got to lose?

2. Don't you think you're old enough to decide for yourself whether or not a particular gentleman is right for you? Assuming that you are a mature, responsible adult, you are fully capable of deciding what qualities you need in a mate and asking the pertinent questions yourself.

3. At your age, you can't afford to be too choosy. If your goal is, indeed, to get married, realize that after the age of 30, there will be fewer and fewer men knocking at your door. Take every opportunity you get to go out.

Now, I'll admit that maybe I'm not seeing the problem from the singles' point of view. Thank God, I've been happily married for a long time and never had to put up with the "shidduch dating" scene. So, maybe there is a side of this that I am missing. If anyone is aware of it, please feel free to write in and educate me. But I've always been a firm believer in doing everything possible to get unmarried men and women together to meet and marry. I believe that we should be doing everything we can to facilitate meetings, not block them. Unless you find out that the guy or girl have some *serious* defect (polygamist, etc.) what's the harm in just going out on the date? The worst that can happen is that you have a lousy time and the evening was a waste. But with the potential upside is so great, I don't see how you can *not* go.

Ms. Kupfer ends her column with a similar story of another older single who lost a potential chance because* someone else* thought the shidduch wasn't good enough.

I am reminded of a phone call I made many years ago that was intercepted by the mother of an older single (still unmarried) who I wanted to set up with a divorced father of one. She, too, was in her late 30s. Her mother asked why I was calling, and being polite and a bit stupid, I told her that I had a shidduch for her daughter.

When she heard that the man was divorced with a child, SHE nixed it, with an indignant tone in her voice that I would even think of setting up her child with such a man. She too, like the mentor above, was wearing rose-colored glasses that had been dipped in the skewed waters of Denial.

How about letting her decide? True, maybe she wasn't looking for someone with a child, but perhaps she might have liked the man enough anyway? Would it have been so bad to even suggest a date and that she find out? How could she know that this man might not have been perfect for her daughter?

Personally, I think that we need to make some changes. We need to have older singles begin to think for themselves. We need to show them that they are perfectly capable of evaluating whether or not to go out on a date with someone. They don't require anyone's permission.

Secondly, we need to instruct mentors and parents of older singles to simply stay out of the way. Unless there is some really, really, really solid reason why the match wouldn't work, then they should advise them to go out and have fun. Older singles don't need a gatekeeper anymore -- they can make their own decisions.

The Wolf

19 comments:

aaron from L.A. said...

Why can't a decent young man who sees a girl he is interested in just ask her out?Why does the girl have to ask a "mentor" if the guy's all right? For the life of me,I can't figure out why all dates have to be set up by a third party.It's not like dating "off the wall." (you know, messages such as"for a good time call Lulu at such and such a phone number").If these third-party shidduchim are so great,why is the divorce rate among the frum today so high?

Ezzie said...

I basically was thinking "Go Wolf!" while reading most of this post, but I'll disagree on #3.

Assuming they're following #1, there's no reason for them to go beyond that for #3. The one comment that would really upset my sister-in-law was "why don't you settle?!" Her response (usually silent) was "why, so I can make everyone else happy that I'm finally married, only to get divorced after a couple of years!?" She is now happily married, getting married at the ripe "old" age of 28.

The key (to me) is #1, and it's not just true for older singles. People we know and are good friends with spend days, even WEEKS, "looking into" people. They could have gone out and just seen for themselves! Unless there's serious reason to think it's a terrible idea or somehow a problem, a quick phone call or two (or zero if it's a friend you trust suggesting it) should be all that's necessary.

Passionate Life said...

Wolf,

I couldn’t agree with you more how ridiculous it is for single men and women in their thirties to not be able to make decisions for themselves. That clearly comes from a culture in the Yeshivish world that abrogates all life decision making powers to a Rav. They also have a major problem that they don’t see the dating process any different for an 18 year old or a 38 year old.

I do have to take issue with your well intentioned notion of, “Let them go out, what do they have to lose.” They have a lot to lose. There is a lot of emotional hope tied up in going out on a date and when repeatedly those blind dates turn into horror stories from Mars, it hurts and turns older singles into very negative and cynical people.

We need to guard our emotional equilibrium and ability to stay positive and hopeful. That’s why web sites such as Frumster are very useful. They allow singles to have a bit of dialog and email conversations to make sure that they are appropriate, at least for a decent date. It allows singles to act like grown ups and write in their own words what the crucial factors are that they are looking for and to evaluate their potential date based on his or her own words, style and priorities.

It’s gotten to the point where I wouldn’t date anyone who does not have an online profile with the ability to communicate what she is looking for in her own words. It’s not singles who are the problem it’s the Yeshivish/Chasidish mentality they are imbued with.

Ahuva said...

I don't believe I'm agreeing with P-life but... :) I have also seen singles completely embittered by too many first dates with completely incompatible people.

Ezzie is also right: remaining single is better than getting divorced in a year or two.

queeniesmom said...

No one should feel pressured into settling but a large dose of reality testing is needed.

As we keep segregating the sexes, people lack the self confidence to talk to the opposite sex. Unless you have a reasonable amount of selfconfidence, you're not going to place yourself in a situation where you'll be rejected. I wonder how many singles are using others as a means of limiting their rejections and trying to go for the sure thing?

Everyone needs to keep/develop a sense of humor and keep dating in perspective, it's only coffee folks! As one who married later for a host of reasons and who went on many 1st dates, realize that unless you're willing to take a chance, you'll never know what if.
15 years and 3 kids later, I'm very glad I took a chance on the unknown (horors - a personal ad) If I had listened to others, I would never have gone on that 1st date.

BrooklynWolf said...

I do have to take issue with your well intentioned notion of, “Let them go out, what do they have to lose.” They have a lot to lose. There is a lot of emotional hope tied up in going out on a date and when repeatedly those blind dates turn into horror stories from Mars, it hurts and turns older singles into very negative and cynical people.

P-Life,

Eeees often brings up the same point when I discuss it with her. But my response to that is, why do you have to make such an emotional investment in a first date?

In fact, I'd say that the best thing you can do on a first date is *not* get overly emotionally involved. Not only does it cause problems if you or the other party decide not to go further, it also clouds your ability to evaluate the person as a potential spouse. You're far better off holding off on the heavy emotional investment until you can see where the relationship is headed.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Ezzie,

I wasn't suggesting that people settle when it comes time to look for a spouse. But they should leave themselves open to exploring all the possibilities, especially when, as they age, those possibilities (read: dating opportunities) lessen. In other words, you don't have to compromise when it comes to the proposal, but consider going out on first dates with those who otherwise might not be "ideal." Who knows? You might find your bashert anyway.

The Wolf

Passionate Life said...

Wolf,

I again completely agree with you and strongly advocate not allowing emotions to run wild when you are dating. It's crucial to make decisions with your head and not with your heart. But not wanting to go on blind dates has nothing to do with emotional attachment to the person you are dating. It's about the natural (and healthy!) human state of emotions that one experiences upon knowing that there is a new possibility.

The emotions that I am talking about is the idea of HOPE. The idea that there is a real person with potential that I am meeting tonight. When you just throw any person into that mix and they are not remotely appropriate for us its a tremendous let down and if that's the experience repeatedly, it really begins chipping away at our hope and belief that there is someone special out there for us.

All that us singles have is HOPE, and that is the most powerful emotion that keeps us going. Have you ever met a single (or any person in a difficult situation) who has lost his or her hope? People don't realize how important it is to help singles keep that hope and not do anything to demoralize or diminish hope.

For most singles going repeatedly on blind dates where you know after ten minutes that the person is not even in your ballpark is completely demoralizing. On the other hand when I date someone who is in my ballpark, even if she is ultimately not compatible for other reasons that we discover along the way, it still gives me tremendous hope knowing that people in my ballpark exist.

That's why I am saying that just throwing people together without careful considerations that they have things in common and would at a minimum enjoy talking to each other, is damaging and hurtful to singles.

Keeping hope alive is more important then a one in a million shot at maybe. Truth is if people really cared then they just have to make a bit more effort. Invite the person who you think might be a possibility over for a Shabbos meal and get to know him or her on a more then superficial level. Then if you still think that person could make a good date for your friend, set them up.

I have heard that phrase, "Go out, what do you have to lose!" one too many times. The answer is that we have HOPE to lose and its just too precious and we simply can't afford to lose it.

I hope this clears things up.

P-Life ;-)

Lubab No More said...

The story in the post illustrates the danger of allowing other people to make decisions for you. When it comes to dating (and most things in life) only you have your best interest in mind.

SephardiLady said...

I know a lot of stories where dating mentors have said no, but few stories where dating mentors have suceeded in talking sense into a single. I'm sure there are many stories of the later, but I'm getting frustrated by incidences of the former. These are trying times and dating can be emotionally draining, but why do we have to make it so much more difficult than it should be?

anonymous mom said...

So we have dating mentors and labor dulas and so on, and so on. BTW, by labor dulas, I mean that many women are paying other frum women to be with them in the labor room because supposedly their husbands are not as involved anymore due to Halachic and Hashkafic concerns. I find this troubling, but I digress. Passionate Life, I am with you 100% on the "what do you have to lose" comments. Hope is it and those who set singles up should be careful and respect that when you have been dating for years (sometimes into your second decade) you may be feeling strong feelings of despair about your situation and you may have gone 6 months without a date or had 3 awful dates in a row preceding this one, so you have every right to expect a good reaason to be set up with someone. Even if you are not feeling despair, you deserve to have your hope kept in tact and your horror stories kept at a minimum.

Miriam said...

re: thinking for themselves

I think that is part of a much bigger problem. It seems like the whole of Jblogging is about when or at what point can one think for themselves. It spills over in other aspects of life as well.

Anonymous said...

Wolf,
Would you argue the same thing -- that singles should think for themselves -- if the mentor would urge them to date more and the single didn't want to?
Methinks there are 2 issues here: singles thinking for themselves, and dating at every available opportunity. Be clear!

TheAnswer said...

Wolf:

While I agree older singles should definitely play are larger decision making role, there are many in the isolated charedi world ill-equipped to handle the issues of the world at-large. I would expect this to be exacerbated on the single woman's side since many, or maybe most, would not allow their daughter to work in a non-frum workplace. Where would she get relationship perspectives from?

Mike S said...

the answer: if by age 30 you are not equipped to deal with the world at large (at least to the extent of deciding whether to risk a date with a frum guy) what business have you getting married or trying to rear children? If this situation is common, there is not a shidduch crises but an adulthood one.

PsychoToddler said...

I think if it were up to my mother, I'd still be single. Nobody was good enough for her little gem.

TheAnswer said...

mike s:
Forget about the 30 year-olds, the 18-21 set certainly are not world-savvy and most make fine parents. They don't go hand-in-hand.

SaraK said...

ITA with P-life

For most singles going repeatedly on blind dates where you know after ten minutes that the person is not even in your ballpark is completely demoralizing. On the other hand when I date someone who is in my ballpark, even if she is ultimately not compatible for other reasons that we discover along the way, it still gives me tremendous hope knowing that people in my ballpark exist.

The last thing I need is another horror story for my not-to-be-published book of my dating life!



Yes, I agree that singles should be able to think for themselves. I alone make decisions on who I do and do not want to date. If the suggestion comes from someone who knows me and whom I trust, I go on the date without doing any "checking out". If it is more of a random suggestion, I try to make a call or 2, within 1 or 2 days, to try and get a basic idea if the date will at all be worth my while.

If the guy lives far away I suggest talking on the phone before we commit to traveling to meet each other.

The singles who don't make decisions without their parents or mentors approval are making a conscious choice to do so. I don't know why they are so insecure.

A pet peeve of mine is when someone who doesn't know me well sets me up and then I say no to going out again and then I am pressured to give it another chance. I gave it a chance - I am 30 years old and you don't know me at all. You set me up based on very little information. I appreciate the gesture and I am grateful, but if there is something I don't like about the guy, don't nag me to go out again!

There has to be a healthy balance. Singles should be more open minded about who they consider dating and mentors/shadchanim need to give the singles a little more credit for their decisions.

Mike S. said...

The answer: I got engaged at 21, and my wife was 18, and we have done OK in the subecuent decades. However, we were mature enough to make our own decisions. That isn't to say we didn't ask anyone for advice, but there is a big difference between asking for advice and delegating a decision.

In any event, the article refered to a 30 year old turning down a date because a mentor vetoed it.