Her first e-mail had the subject: “We would’ve been great in-laws!”
I’m not sure what possessed me to do something so revolutionary when it came to finding a shidduch for my son. I tend to be a creative thinker, always considering the nontraditional course. Yet, as someone who has dabbled — successfully — in traditional shidduchim for decades, I surprised even myself….
The first time I called a girl’s mother directly to redt my own son’s shidduch was about a year ago. When I learned that Leah, an old friend from high school, had a daughter who was as out-of-the-shidduch-box as my son, I decided to cut out the middleman (or middle woman), and call Leah myself. After a nostalgic 15-minute conversation, we agreed that the shidduch was worth a try. Not only did we determine our kids were on the same “shidduch page,” we had fond memories of our friendship and decided we would really enjoy being mechutanim. If, however, the shidduch was not meant to be, we promised to stay on speaking terms (no big sacrifice considering we hardly spoke in the 30-something years since graduation).
Leah and I were more excited about our children’s upcoming date than they were. To our dismay, the only thing our children had in common was the opinion that they were not a match. So, with pledges to keep an eye out for one another’s children, Leah and I turned back to the drawing board.
The second time I used this “self-service” method called for a bit more bravery. My coworker met Esther and her daughter at an out-of-state simchah. After just a short conversation, she took a liking to them. Esther asked if she knew any nice boys for her daughter. It wasn’t until my coworker returned home that she came up with an idea: my son. Five minutes on Google — my own inimitable F.B.I (Frum Bureau of Investigation) search — revealed Esther was a landsman!
Who would have imagined that this woman, who was about my age, had grown up in the next small town over from my Connecticut hometown? Could this be bashert? Whether the shidduch went through or not, I was more than curious to know whether we had traveled in the same childhood circle of friends.
After my coworker encouraged me to call Esther directly, I took a deep breath and dialed. Though unconventional, it made perfect sense to me. My coworker barely knew anything about the girl or her family, except that they were invited guests at the same simchah she had attended. Why should I call strangers on a list of references when I could go directly to the source? Who knows a child better than a mother? Again, I was excited to learn, firsthand, about this potential wife for my son.
Well, Esther and I hit it off over the phone, traveling down Memory Lane and playing Connecticut “Jewish Geography.” We almost got sidetracked from the purpose of my call. After a good half hour though, we concluded that our children were both nice, good people, but on substantially different hashkafic tracks. We swapped e-mail addresses, in case we thought of shidduchim for one another’s kids. In fact, we continue our e-friendship until this day. (Her first e-mail had the subject: “We would’ve been great in-laws!”) And, when she made the six-hour trip to Baltimore to attend a wedding, I hosted her and we finally had the pleasure of meeting, in person!
Mothers to the Shidduch Rescue?
When I shared my brainstorm of Mother Intervention with Leeba, a crackerjack shadchan friend, she volunteered her opinion: “It’s certainly not the magic formula because boys/girls and their mothers are not always on the same page and may misinterpret, misunderstand, etc. Sometimes talking to a mother could turn the other mother off, and there goes a potentially great shidduch. And not every parent is honest about her children— or herself. In fact, most parents have negius. An FBI search is still necessary. Unfortunately, as we all know, there is no one answer and no magic formula.”
With Leeba’s successful experience in making hundreds of shidduchim, she certainly knows what she is talking about. However, there are also cases when mothers are able to intervene successfully when the average shadchan may not.
My friend, Rochel P., attributes two of her daughters’ happily-ever-afters to Mother Intervention. She shared with me the following stories:
“My older daughter’s shidduch was originally redt by the boy’s neighbor, who was supposed to be the go-between. Date number one went well. After date number two, the boy thought my daughter looked too put together for a long-term kollel boy. He questioned whether they were on the same page hashkafically. The boy thought that the shadchan did not understand where he was coming from, and he planned to stop seeing my daughter. His mother took initiative and called me to let me know why her son was ready to end the shidduch — he doesn’t need so much gashmiyus, she said.
“I asked his mother, ‘Does he like the way she looks?’
“His mother answered, ‘Very much so!’
“I told her, ‘If that’s the only qualm, how she appears, tell him not to worry about it.’
“After date number four, the ‘cold feet’ reversed — my daughter felt hesitant because she thought the boy was way too serious. After hearing my daughter’s concerns, I called the shadchan to tell her my daughter was no longer interested. Then, something made me pick up the phone and call the boy’s mother directly. After getting confirmation that her son really liked my daughter, I told her, ‘My daughter really likes your son, but he has to show her he can have a good time; she finds him stiff.’
“Thinking that I had already called off the shidduch with the shadchan — which I had — my daughter was really surprised when the boy called her directly to tell her he wanted to have a phone date with her, in person. In other words, they would go talk in a lounge, but not get dressed up — they would just be themselves. On that date, he took off his jacket and hat and rolled up his sleeves. He told her that he really, really liked her, and asked for one more chance to give her a good time. After speaking with his rosh yeshivah, who knew the boy was a good ice skater, he got a psak, in this circumstance, to take my daughter ice skating. This would show that he really has another side to him. Five dates later they got engaged.
“My son-in-law did not trust the shadchan to look out for his best interest; he knew that his mother was. It was the mothers who saved this shidduch!
“In the case of my younger daughter, she had a very good time with one boy — they really liked each other, but she was not ready to commit, so she ended the shidduch. His mother had a policy that if he was dropped by a girl, he could not re-date her. The boy told the shadchan that he really wanted to date my daughter again. However, the boy’s mother told the shadchan about her policy, and the shadchan didn’t even attempt to reason with her.
“My daughter went out with another boy three times, but it was not a match. She had no idea that the previous boy wanted to try again, but she did realize that she just had a case of cold feet.
“When I called the shadchan about redting the shidduch again, she told me about his mother’s policy. Both the boy and the girl wanted to go out again, and the shadchan didn’t even want to help us.
“This is totally ridiculous, I thought. I took the matter into my own hands and called the boy’s mother myself. I didn’t know her; she lived in another city. I spoke to her for two hours and didn’t let her get off the phone. I asked her, ‘Why are you standing on ceremony? Let’s not ruin our kids’ lives.’ She told me that she had to think about it for a week.
“I called her back and repeated, ‘Let’s not ruin our kids’ lives.’ Baruch Hashem, she gave in. They continued to date and are now happily married.
“When I told someone what I did, she said, ‘People don’t do those type of things; it’s just not right!’ I felt it was a no-brainer. The shadchan never told us that the boy wanted to go out again because she didn’t want to tangle with his mother. I don’t blame the shadchan for not wanting to work with an opinionated mother and a girl who couldn’t make up her mind. I say, if it makes sense, try. You have to be a little innovative sometimes and not stick with protocol.”
Another friend also took the direct approach when it came to her eldest son’s shidduch.
“I would watch and admire my neighbor’s daughter as she walked past my house, back and forth to school, over the course of a year, and I thought to myself, What a fine girl! Maybe she’s for my son. Since he was away in yeshivah, the neighbors didn’t really know him.
“I mustered up the courage to broach this shidduch idea to the girl’s mother. It was a little scary, but I thought the time was right. It was awkward because these people live two doors away, and it could be very uncomfortable if they or we turned the shidduch down. We promised each other that we will continue to be good friends, whatever happens.
“Little did I know that the girl’s parents had the idea of our children’s shidduch at the same time as I did, and they had already asked someone to redt it. In the end, that shadchan acted as the go-between. Baruch Hashem, the shidduch went through, and in addition to being close friends and neighbors, today we are also mechutanim.”
Perhaps, the grand prize for Mother Intervention should be awarded to two Lakewood neighbors whose children made for the most unlikely shidduch. As Hashgachah would have it, the only way this Heimishe-Yekkishe “intermarriage” happened was because the girl’s family did not own a copy machine. Her mother went to a neighbor who had one to make a copy of her daughter’s shidduch profile. This neighbor said she would be happy to copy it for her, but why shouldn’t they try redting their children to one another first? Both of these women overlooked any cultural differences that a shadchan might not have. Baruch Hashem, soon after their children went out, it became obvious that there was no longer a need to make that copy!
Mother Intervention Pointers
Want to take your child’s shidduchim into your own hands? Here are some points to keep in mind.
- Consider friends, neighbors, coworkers, acquaintances, relatives, or their sons/daughters/relatives as shidduch ideas for your son/daughter.
- If you have an idea for your child, put convention aside and go for it. You stand to gain more than you’d lose in being proactive. Call his/her parents or the person who manages his shidduchim. (For the less daring, get a professional shadchan or a friend to present your idea.)
- When the shidduch candidate is a family friend or neighbor, begin your pitch with a disclaimer that the outcome won’t affect your relationship.
- If you’re disappointed with the shadchan’s communication or other intervention in an active shidduch for your child — or you feel you can be a better advocate — speak to the boy’s/girl’s parents directly.
- When presenting your child as a shidduch option, be honest. You could be setting him up for a good deal of pain and heartaches if you fudge or misrepresent the truth.
Direct Shidduchim Dos and Don’ts
- Think outside the box.
- Research creatively to find out information beyond the shidduch résumé.
- Have the courage of your convictions and follow your gut.
- Face up to your son’s/daughter’s shortcomings. Don’t nix shidduchim because of “imperfections” that are not deal breakers; nobody is perfect.
- Ask a sheilah regarding when and how to present sensitive information that would be important for the perspective spouse to know.
- Ask your rav how to compensate the person if the self-serve shidduch culminates in marriage, but someone else originated or facilitated the idea.
- Stand on ceremony. Your mission is to stand at the ceremony, not on it!
- Be intimidated by a well-meaning shadchan if you think he is not advocating properly for your son/daughter. Get involved to clear up misconceptions or misunderstandings, and/or facilitate progression.
- Nix a shidduch idea for your son/daughter solely for this reason: It is so obvious yet no one suggested it by now, it must not be a good idea.
- Nix a shidduch idea just because it originated from someone who does not know your son/daughter very well, if at all. Hashem has all sorts of messengers for His holy work!
- Pester a shidduch prospect incessantly. Once you’ve made your case, if the answer’s “No,” accept it graciously.
(Originally Featured in XXX, Issue XXX)
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