| Words Unspoken |

Dear 22-Year-Old Single

Dear 22-year-old Single,

Okay, so you could be newly 23 also.  Or maybe turning 22 in a couple of weeks. The age margin I’m speaking to is flexible. But whether you’re a freshly minted 23-year-old or a seasoned palindrome of 22, I want you to know something.

I get it.

It’s awkward. You’re not old. You’re not even near old. But you’re not, like,19. Or 20. Or even 21. And for some ludicrous reason you have yet to understand (maybe because a reason doesn’t exist), 22 sounds considerably older than 21.

But it isn’t. But it is. Kinda.

I want you to know that you’re not alone in these un-interpretable feelings that I continuously attempt to interpret. I feel them, too.

The first thing I want to address, which I know you already know, is that there are bigger problems out there. Yes, we’re not married yet, but there are plenty of people significantly older than us still not married. I realize this, and I’m in no way trying to belittle anyone’s pain nor blow my own out of proportion. All I’m trying to say is that while theirs may be a bigger problem, and mine a smaller one, the adjectives don’t detract from the nouns — they’re both problems.

It’s an uncomfortable place to be. It’s probably the first time in your life that you and your friends have diverged from a parallel path. Before this, every major step was taken as a unit. High school — check. Graduation — check. Seminary — check. Husband...um, well, hopefully check...soon? In line with the essence of marriage, mostly because it requires the integration of another (suitable) person, it’s the first time that you and your friends aren’t going through that next pivotal stage together.

Being 22 and single means that a lot of your friends are married. Not all of them, but a fair few. Maybe a few even have a kid already. And while you Face-Time them as you pore over your college textbooks, you can sometimes hear the sound of a husband or a baby in the background. And despite your better judgement, it bothers you. “Here I am, trying to memorize Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and my friends are making dinner and changing diapers.” And you can’t help but illogically wonder, how can we be the same age and be living such different lives right now?

It’s a time when you can go to a friend’s wedding and still see girls from your grade in a fair mix of effortless sheitels and natural (painstakingly ironed and curled, but not too curled, because you want it to look natural) waves. The concerned eyes of Jewish mothers aren’t yet focused on you, because, like I said, you’re not old. You’re just not really young.

You’re most probably also at that point where dating has lost its previous stomach-churning qualities. Whereas in the past you could go three full days before a date without a morsel of sustenance, you now find yourself scarfing down a still-too-hot schnitzel at 6:54 (six full minutes, plenty of time). Nervous excitement has turned into vexing exasperation: how is it possible to both want to date and not want to date at the same time?

I want to reiterate that I’m fully aware that my situation is, Baruch Hashem, not dire. I have no agenda to make mountains out of molehills, only to relate a sentiment to an audience who knows who they are. I guess my point in writing you this letter is really just to provide a sense of camaraderie; to validate your feelings and all that. Because when you experience feelings that you feel you shouldn’t be feeling (say that five times fast), it’s comforting to know that someone else is feeling them, too.

Physiological needs come first, by the way. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that is. Physiological, then safety, and then love and belongingness. But for some reason, I think that maybe Mr. Maslow got his order a little mixed up.

Then again, what do I know? I’m only (already?) 22.

Yours Sincerely,

Another 22-year-old Single


Oops! We could not locate your form.

Leave a Reply

Comments (7)

  1. Avatar
    26 and Single

    Dear 22- year old,
    I hear you.
    I keep telling myself that I’m not old either.
    Because honestly? Am I really actually that old? I still BH have so much of my life in front of me. And R’l I know great girls, women older then me who are still single and I don’t view them as old.
    So no. I’m not old.
    But then I look at my family members and friends having a second child and a third. I see the kids having upsharins and having their first days of school. I think about how many kids my mother had by my age. I see the cousins that started high school when I was in college getting married. I notice how some of my friends no longer know how to have conversations regarding things other than sheitels and strollers. These friends who in the same breath say “maybe you should do this or that, meet this shadchan or that one” and “my husband doesn’t know anyone single who is good enough”. I consider how this Yom Tov, I will once again be in my childhood bedroom instead of the option of making Yom Tov on my own. I hear the whispers when I walk into shul or go to a family simcha of “yeah, I don’t know what to do either”. I think about the BNB that I’ve been meticulously planning and hear the clock ticking on the life that I want to build to be a better eved hashem. I think about how the odds of getting married before 27 feel slimmer and slimmer each day.
    I know that I’m not old, but trust me it doesn’t feel that way.

  2. Avatar
    A 21-year old

    Dear 22-year-old,
    I read your Words Unspoken about what it’s like being a 22-year-old in shidduchim, and all I can say is, wow. What an incredibly written letter. And you must have read my mind, because this is exactly how I feel. The only difference is that I’m not 22 yet, I turned 21 a few months ago. But I feel just like you do.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you, for giving me that incredible feeling of validation, especially now when spending time with still-single friends is so limited and loneliness creeps up a lot more often than it used to, especially for those of us doing school online, spending hours locked up in our rooms poring over notes, alone.
    It isn’t fun, but it’s not bad, because we’re not old, but we’re not young, so what exactly should I be feeling? I don’t know. Probably that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now, because Hashem put me here. Maybe I should
    study that instead of my notes. Thank you again.

    1. Avatar
      Lea Pavel

      When did the age of 21 mean that a girl is “no longer young”? I must counter that 21, and yes, 22, are both very young ages. If someone’s friend married at 20, it does not follow that being single at 22 means that one is “no longer young.” Twenty-one is young. Twenty-two is young. Dare I say that 23 is also young. Perhaps we don’t have a shidduch crisis. Perhaps we are merely aging out young women who just recently reached voting age.
      When I was 23, someone told me to “just get married so at least you’ll have children.” I dated for many years following, looking back in wonder that anyone could consider the low 20s “old.”
      We are no longer in the Middle Ages with a life expectancy of 45. I think we can leave “old” for the great-grandmothers.

      1. Avatar

        You’re right; 21, 22, 23 are not old. But maybe it’s not about age. Maybe it’s not about peer pressure. Maybe it’s just about pain.
        I’m not here to defend my pain to you — it goes far beyond the number I turned at my last birthday. I’m 23 and, yes, I’m hurting as a single. I’ve learned time and time again that pain is pain. Week after week, in these very pages, we hear from mental health professionals telling us that pain is valid, it does not help to disown, discard, or despise it.
        Being 23 and single might not sound painful to you, for whatever reason. But think about the reason all of these articles and letters were written in the first place — because people are in pain.
        Some of us “younger” singles are mature and deep, and feel more than ready to move on to our next stage of life. Some singles know that the clock is ticking on their ability to have children, due to a medical issue you may not be privy to. And some are simply waiting to move away from challenging backgrounds, to give all their beautiful gifts and talents to a husband, to a family.
        The desire to get married is not always defined by age. Often, it’s defined by a beautiful gift Hashem gave humanity — the desire to connect on the deepest of levels, in a marriage. It’s not about our age, or being old.
        To all of you out there saying we’re not old, we shouldn’t complain: We don’t bash your pain. Please don’t bash ours. Let’s be a society that can understand, once and for all, that pain is valid, real, and deserves respect.

        1. Avatar
          Lea Pavel

          My comment seems to have been misconstrued. I said, “21, 22, and 23 is not old.” I did not say, “Anyone who is upset that they are still single at such an age is being ridiculous.” One can still yearn for marriage (as I did) at those ages without labeling oneself as “old.” Nor should our community label any single individuals at those ages as “old.”

      2. Avatar
        Sharon Cohen

        Lea, I appreciate your sincere empathy for young singles. However, you then turned around and said, “I think we can leave old for the great-grandmothers.”
        On behalf of all the outstanding, vivacious, young, and young-at-heart great-grandmothers, I must inform you. We are not OLD.

        1. Avatar
          Lea Pavel

          My apologies to the great-grandmothers who took offense at being called old. We can leave “old” for Mesushelach (unless I’m insulting him as well).