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.