Cheryl Kupfer has a sad article in last week's Jewish Press regarding the sad state of dating in the frum community. She starts out the article with this powerful line:
I hate to say it, but I am coming to the conclusion that that if a bocher and a girl actually go on a date – a mazel tov to both sides is warranted. It means that each had successfully passed an intense, all encompassing inspection and scrutiny that would be the envy of any secret government agency. Getting “approved”, and considered worthy to go out with someone, is getting to be a cause for celebration!
We've all heard stories about the "checking out" that goes on in the shidduch scene. Both sides (it sounds so... adversarial when put that way) provide information to the other, along with references. Phone calls are made, dirt is dug up, private investigators are hired (lest you think I'm joking, read the article) and after a while (anywhere from a few days to a few weeks) both sides come back with a "yes" or "no." Saying "yes" to date has become a major commitment in and of itself.
Now, I'm not saying that there aren't valid reasons to say no to a first date. But there are plenty of silly reasons to do so. Ms. Kupfer brings the case of one boy who was turned down for a first date. He was a fine young man who came from a chashuv, comfortable family. So, why was he turned down sight unseen? Well, it turns out that the poor fellow had the disadvantage of having too many siblings. What's wrong with that, you ask? Well, when it comes time to collect the inheritance, it would be split too many ways. That's right -- the girl (or her family) turned down a shidduch because they were thinking about the in-laws' death and how much they could profit from it! (I think the guy dodged a bullet with that one. He should thank God every day that he missed *that* shidduch!)
And, of course, if having too many siblings is a problem, so is having too few. As Ms. Kupfer puts it:
...somewhere out there in the shidduch world, a wonderful bocher wasbeing turned down by a girl’s parents – because he has too few siblings. The other side would have doubts about the family’s “frumkeit” if they only had three or four kids – or wonder - if indeed it was an ehrlich family, if there was a hidden “fertility” problem.
Now, I am not in the parsha of shidduchim myself. My kids are too young and I am happily married for quite a few years. However, I recently tried setting up some older singles. Eeees and I tried to set up a girl with a single fellow from our shul. She was willing, but he turned her down without so much as speaking a single sentence with her by saying that he doesn't think they're "on the same page." On the flip side, we tried to set the girl up with another guy we knew, but she turned him sight unseen on the advice of a mentor. Now, we're not talking about young kids here... all the people mentioned here are at least thirty years old and you'd think that they'd at least make the attempt. But sadly, that's not the way of today's shidduch scene.
Of course, all this is on top of the fact that we've made it utterly impossible for couples to meet on their own. Heaven forbid older singles should have a social gathering where they could meet on their own. Heaven forbid if a guy actually sees a girl in shul and (horror of horrors) asks her out all by himself.
I've always wondered if there really was a demographic "shidduch crisis" or if it was a simply a media-hype. To tell the truth, I'm now convinced that there is a shidduch crisis... although I don't know if it's simply a matter of demographics. The real crisis, IMHO, is that we've made shidduchim so difficult for younger and older sibllings alike, that we've placed so many obstacles in the way of a first date, that it is truly a miracle that anyone gets together anymore. Everytime I hear these stories, I thank God with all my heart that I met Eeees on my own (He was our shadchan) and that I didn't have to go through all this nonsense. If I did, who knows, I might still be single today.