| Voice in the Crowd |

Going to Town

I’m not saying to consider out-of-town girls before in-town girls, just asking that you give them equal consideration


This is a column I have long wanted to write, but could not.

Now is my window. Baruch Hashem, we just married off a daughter, and with our next daughter just ten years old, I can publish this column without appearing self-serving.

The term “out of town” is ambiguous, because it can mean different things to different people. Once, Brooklyn was in town, and everywhere not-Brooklyn was out of town. Monsey was in the conversation for a bit, but then Lakewood moved in and easily reappropriated the title.

So whatever “in town” means, I address myself to you, specifically to the mothers of in-town boys.

Your son is home from Eretz Yisrael, or he’s been home a while, or he never went, whatever the case — and you’re looking into shidduchim.

Every batch of resumes that comes your way includes one from Chicago or Los Angeles or Minneapolis, and you courteously tell the shadchan that you’re not yet ready to consider an out-of-town shidduch.

Give me two minutes to make the pitch and explain why you shouldn’t be so quick to shuffle the pile. I’m not saying to consider out-of-town girls before in-town girls, just asking that you give them equal consideration.

Now, it’s a silly and untrue stereotype that out-of-towners are nicer than in-towners. I know many supremely nice in-towners and many supremely… forget it, the first part is enough to make the point.

And I also understand why someone who lives in town — who has their entire family, social network, and infrastructure right where they live — feels hesitant to place their son in a family whose location means distance, travel, and perhaps that he will even consider settling there one day. It’s not super convenient, true.

(And before I continue, I would also be presumptuous enough to suggest to out-of-town parents of girls to consider making a wedding in town, thus averting what is seen as a hurdle for the other side.)

But let me explain the reality of an out-of-town girl.

Say your son wants to learn seriously and is looking for a girl who will be at his side all the way.

Most out-of-town communities have just one or at most two Bais Yaakov schools. Invariably, this means that the girls will have classmates from homes both frummer and more modern than their own. From kindergarten and on, they will learn to respect, to accept, and to understand others. They walk home from school or are lab partners with girls who come from homes in which they might not be able to trust the kashrus, or girls who would not eat in their homes — and yet they form real, vibrant friendships.

They have no choice, and without a single lecture, they learn to see a bit deeper.

When it comes time for high school, they probably don’t need to jostle or push to get in, because everyone gets in. There’s much less external pressure to perform well on tests or get into a top seminary because there are fewer girls trying. If they say they want a learning boy, then it’s likely that they really, really do.

(Again, I am not saying that an in-town girl does not, just that the peer pressure exerted by 250 fellow classmates might make it harder for her get to know herself.)

What if your son is a working boy and wants to marry a young woman who will be proud of him? Well, an out-of-town girl knows that many men show up at shul with shirts that aren’t white (or even off-white) and they’re still counted as part of the minyan. She knows that there are no hard and fast rules (other than those that come from Har Sinai) about what makes a young man a ben Torah or an erlicher Yid: these girls have been exposed to all sorts and learned to appreciate each one.

Next: Every mother wants a relaxed, easygoing girl for her son.

I’m not saying that in-town girls aren’t relaxed. But consider that any out-of-town girl who went to camp did so via planes, vans, or more than one bus, coming either too early or too late.

Every single person from out of town has once arrived in New York/Lakewood for a simchah carrying a suitcase and had to change in a shul or wedding hall restroom. They’ve all unwittingly gone to that one pizza shop that everyone else knows to avoid.

Many of us out-of-towners don’t have frum doctors, mechanics, or even neighbors, which means that we’ve had to learn diplomacy. It also means that our kesher with other visibly frum Yidden in cities where we are an overwhelming minority becomes like that of family. It makes for excellent social skills.

With a lack of local shops and the geographic inability to park outside whatever the hottest store in town is and sleep there overnight so that you’re first in after opening, our girls have never dressed with that mega-precise accuracy of in-towners, knowing which brand is today, which is yesterday, which is last year, and which is… out of town. Be honest, you know that this will make your son’s life easier, right?

Our girls are humble, too. Imagine if after you introduced yourself, someone looked at you blankly and said, “So sorry, Lakewood or Boro Park, where do you live again? I can never remember which is which.”

We get that once a week. “Oh, Montreal, I thought Toronto, same difference.”

“Denver or Detroit, I can never remember where my cousin moved to.”

“Baltimore or Passaic, I always get confused.” (This one is a joke, a desperate attempt to lighten up a very serious and ill-advised column.)

Oh, they also know how to cook, a necessary byproduct of having limited restaurant options and food establishments that close at dark. That’s also not a bad feature in a wife, eh?

Okay, l’maiseh. “Out of town” has become a label in shidduchim, and I understand this reality. I suggest only that before you push the resume to the side — because to you, it spells pure inconvenience — you take one more moment to contemplate the many wonderful things that come along with it.

May we all share simchos, make simchos, enjoy simchos, and experience the truest simchah in the joyous embrace of the only city that ever mattered.


 (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 956)

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