Can my daughter show her true self on a Zoom date?
Ineed some help figuring out this shidduchim-during-lockdown thing. My daughter was redt to someone a few weeks before Pesach and both sides mutually agreed to adopt a wait-and-see approach. Well, we’ve waited, and we’ve seen that there aren’t any drastic changes on the horizon. The boy’s side said they’d like a decision. They have no problem with us saying no at this time, and they’re also okay with the couple starting on Zoom. They’d just like to be able to move on.
I get that. I’m just unsure what to do. My daughter has a hard time opening up to new people. She’s fine with chitchat, but then she gets stuck. I’m afraid Zoom won’t give her a chance to show her true self. And even if they start on Zoom, how long do we continue that if things go well?
Do we wait until this is all over (whenever that is) to give her the optimal circumstances and say if it’s bashert, he’ll still be around? Or do we go with second best and say what’s meant to be will be and Zoom can’t change that?
What can I say? These questions are beyond my pay grade. Nothing highlights the need for daas Torah like these types of situations. I can’t tell you what to do. (I hope I don’t ever actually tell anyone what to do.)
We don’t know enough to even make educated guesses. This is all too new, and we don’t have enough data. And things are changing on a daily basis. From the time this question was asked until I answered it, there have already been significant restrictions lifted. So we need to proceed with the assumption that Zoom dates are still a significant consideration and work with the limited knowledge we have.
Yes, we know people can date on Zoom and even get engaged on Zoom, but we don’t yet know what the repercussions will be in those relationships. But if you’re looking for an opinion, well then, an opinion is like a nose — everyone has one. And I’m certainly happy to share my opinion.
I think we need to move forward in these unusual times, but we need to do so with eyes wide open. I don’t know if you were struck by how your question highlighted that even coronavirus can’t hold back that which is bashert. Once you used the word “bashert” and once you used the phrase “what’s meant to be” to describe two opposite scenarios. Both basically say that you recognize that no matter which course you choose, whatever Hashem wants to happen is what will happen. If coronavirus taught us anything, it’s that Hashem runs the world.
So then we’re left with the age-old truth: Hashem is in charge of outcomes; we are in charge of hishtadlus. And which hishtadlus seems to be most reasonable now? What are the risks in waiting and what are the risks in starting with Zoom? And, of course, we have to personalize the answers to your child.
The risk in waiting is that you may lose this shidduch now. Will it come back later? Does that mean it wasn’t meant to be? I don’t know. You also face the risk of your daughter losing her drive and motivation. We’re seeing that staying stagnant, in whatever arena, is exacting a huge toll on people through this nisayon. We don’t want your daughter to fizzle out from hanging around for so long.
The risk in using Zoom is that’s a medium that mimics connection but actually falls short. As anyone who has experienced Zoom fatigue will tell you, being with someone is not the same as seeing someone. We’ve learned from social media that people can have entire personas that are exclusive to social media. There are people who are charming and funny behind a screen in a way that’s quite different from their real-life personage. There’s a real danger of falling for the persona without knowing the person. It’s also really hard to “get” a person when you have limited access to their body language.
It’s imperative that before the couple develop a pseudo connection they need to meet in person to see how the actual “persons” click. And, of course, the issue of attraction can only be fairly measured in real life. There is a reason a man must see a woman before he agrees to marry her.
This becomes very complicated in a socially distant world. At what point do we justify the extreme measures needed to meet? Three Zoom calls? Five? What’s the cutoff between, “I think there’s something there, we should meet,” and, “Oops, I think we’re very invested, what if none of this is real?” And, of course, in your daughter’s situation, there’s the added factor that she has difficulty opening up.
What’s becoming clear in this discussion is that nothing is clear. None of the risks in either scenario is insurmountable. While you may lose the shidduch now, it may return. While Zoom is far from perfect as a medium for connection, it’s workable as a starting point. While your daughter may have difficulty being open, it’s unclear whether Zoom will help or hinder her ability to engage.
As unsatisfying as it is, we have to embrace a certain level of uncertainty. And then we have to make the decision that on the surface offers the least damage. That seems like reasonable hishtadlus.
Wishing you and all of us much hatzlachah finding our way through our current haze,
Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a licensed social worker and a columnist for inshidduchim.com. She also lectures on topics related to relationships, personal development, and growth. She welcomes questions, comments, feedback, and interaction at email@example.com.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 695)
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