’ve always thought that to reach my goal of being the subject of a Mishpacha feature, I’d have to embark on a career path not taken by many frum people. An astronaut, a comedian, or a scriptwriter for Hollywood were all excellent options. But I was mistaken. All I had to do was date for 12 years. The experts have converged, the “ones who made it out” have been mined for their insight, and our story has been told. Well told, I might add.

I would like to thank writers Chananel Shapiro and Rachel Ginsberg for a difficult job done well (“Wait for that Perfect Date,” Issue 720). It’s not easy to present so eloquently while not passing judgment. Obviously, as with any subject for which I have a deeply personal frame of reference, there are sentiments expressed in the piece that I strongly reject. I’m not interested here in penning a rebuttal or bullet-pointing my way through every item of contention I came across.

Rather, I’ve been inspired to share my own perspective — a perspective built on years of endless trips up and down the Garden State Parkway, trudging up the steps of the Lakewood dorm after yet another evening spent with someone else’s future wife. We push off the phone call until morning, breaking the news to our parents that we have disappointed them once again, and resume our horizontal position, staring at the ceiling and wondering where it all went so wrong.

As a public service to all older singles, I would like to take this opportunity to inform the general public that we know all the talking points. We have been made aware that nobody sees “fireworks” and that the last time you discussed hashkafah with your wife was your third date. It is understood that the most important part of the search is finding someone who will be a good wife and mother and if you have that, everything else can be worked out later. Most of all, there is no need to clue us in that you learned more about your spouse in the first day of marriage than you knew in the whole tekufah of dating and engagement. We’ve been told.

NONE OF THESE THINGS is what’s holding us back. One of the concepts I find to be the most misunderstood is that we are fully grown adults. We have experienced much in our loneliness. It has shaped who we are and how we think. As developed and intelligent men, we don’t take everything at face value. We have accumulated what the world likes to call “baggage.” Perhaps many would call it a jaded and cynical point of view, but it is genuinely ours. It is our struggle and only the individual is privy to the nuances of his soul.

I realize that there is nothing more frustrating than watching someone you love seemingly sabotage his chance at happiness. It’s just that, from my side of the river, it is equally as exasperating for our opinions to be deemed insignificant. We are not cells in an Excel spreadsheet that need to be marked as done. We are real people with real concerns, desperate to reach the finish line but terrified of making a mistake. When an older guy confides in someone, he wants him to really listen. So try to honestly understand his angle and where he is coming from. His worries are often valid and his queasiness is not always about making excuses. If he truly senses that, your advice will be accepted and even welcomed.

The notion that older bochurim have difficulty making decisions in other areas of life is patently absurd to me. No one I have met in all these years “has difficulty choosing socks, or returns ties two days after [buying] them.” In fact, perhaps they would be better served if they cared more about those things. Many of us have left comfortable situations where we had once dreamed we would spend our lives for new opportunities of growth. We refused to be stuck in a rut and rejected the idea that life is passing us by. Our nisayon is strictly shidduchim. Admittedly we are not faultless for our plight, but we aren’t blundering fools either. Let’s not get too carried away with the subtext of why all of us are still single. This is not a full-scale millennial Bais Yaakov production. It’s just guys who haven’t gotten married yet. To each, his own struggle.

IT TOOK ME A BIT of an intro, but now, let’s talk about picky and commitment issues. There are no words in the lexicon more hated than these, but not for the reasons you may think. Besides the fact that as a group, we are willing to enter into a shidduch that would send a shiver down the backs of the very people redting it would it G-d forbid be a suggestion for their own children, why are these terms helpful? Does anyone really think that if you tell someone this, the lightbulb will suddenly flash? Aren’t those just symptoms? If someone has trouble pulling the trigger, do you tell him to pull harder or do you check to see if there is a missing spring? Maybe it’s just me, but being told I am picky hasn’t had me suddenly jumping to my feet and running out into the streets, proffering a ring to the first girl I meet. Unless you’re my therapist or my dating coach, it’s probably better left unsaid.

Another point that’s important for me to express. I know that it’s considered a “boys’ market.” However, we don’t sit in our apartments gleefully notching marks in the bedpost. It is not a game to us. No decision is made without the utmost seriousness. More than we fear getting hurt in the unraveling of a promising relationship, we dread afflicting pain on a precious bas Yisrael. I don’t know if that seems corny, but it is the absolute truth. It is what I, along with many of my friends, despise most about the shidduch process.

Before I let you all go, I want to make one thing unequivocally clear. I very much resent any hint of a suggestion that all of you generous and kind people who are so dedicated on my behalf are viewed in my eyes as something less than heroic. We lean on your strength. To our parents who suffer with such grace, we carry your pain at times more than our own. To our mentors and rebbeim, available at all hours of the day, engaged in what may seem as thankless toil, you are more appreciated than we can ever express. We recognize the shadchanim who continue to pepper us with emails and show remarkable persistence. When we don’t return your voice mails or text messages, we aren’t being ungrateful. We are just having a bad day, or week, or month. The cherished aunt who sheds actual tears in her tefillah, the friends who open their homes and their hearts with no concern for their own space, ever-supportive siblings and their innate sense of responsibility and sensitivity — every last one of you serves as a lifeline. I dare not think where we would be without all of you. When the time arrives for a celebration, and we have the utmost bitachon that it’s going to — may it be His will — you will all have a seat at the head of the table. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 723)