The short answer to your question is: You shouldn’t be doing this
y parents are warm, wonderful people. They’re also nearly 70 years old, oblivious to the current trends, and live in a tiny community way out of town. I’m their ben zekunim; the last wedding they made was a decade ago. While ostensibly my parents are making all the research phone calls for my shidduchim, they’re so far from the scene, literally and metaphorically, that the information they glean is nearly useless. My siblings are very busy and don’t have hours to devote to researching all the r?sum?s I get. So I’ve started making the calls myself. It’s awkward. Should I be upfront that I’m calling for myself? What about when I’m speaking to her friends — girls I could be dating? How about when the shadchan presses me for my mother’s number? How should I navigate this?
hat is awkward, such an uncomfortable position to be in.
The short answer to your question is: You shouldn’t be doing this. If you’re asking my opinion, and you are, although not about this, I think you need to find a trusted rebbetzin or wise, experienced woman to make these calls for you. For so many reasons.
I think most girls would be extremely uncomfortable giving you information, and it could backfire on you in a big way. Let’s confront the oft-occurring reality that as one finger is hanging up from a reference call, the other finger is already dialing the number of the friend at hand, and giving a full report of how the call went. If the call was a strange experience for the friend/reference, she may color the way she presents you to the girl you’ve been redt to. (This isn’t an endorsement of this practice, as much as an iteration of the fact that it often happens.) You don’t need to sabotage your own chances.
Second, it’s really helpful to have someone experienced, preferably with marriage experience as well, making the calls. There are questions that, as a bochur, you might not even think of and nuances that a skilled “researcher” will pick up. It’s unfortunate that your siblings are not available for the job, but there are wonderful women out there who do this when it’s needed. It’s important to find someone who knows you, understands you, and with whom you feel comfortable being yourself.
Some people, including the shadchan, will see this as a red flag — “So weird, why isn’t his mother making these calls?” — and may automatically assume some form of family dysfunction. It might be simplest to head it off at the pass and have your advocate explain the situation. You aren’t doing anything illegal, unethical, or immoral and you have nothing to be ashamed of. I think most reasonable people will understand that. And those who don’t are probably not families you’d want to marry into anyway.
That answers the practical part of your question. We haven’t addressed the sticky part. How do you get what you need without hurting your parents?
You say your parents are warm, wonderful people, so I’m extrapolating that you have a nice relationship with them. I know this is scandalous, but could you actually have a conversation with them about this? Could you say that the dating scene has become so convoluted that things are just done very differently nowadays and that you yourself don’t even know all the rules? Let them know that there are many informal rules and there’s an unspoken protocol among shadchanim and parents, and that you kind of have to be in the thick of things to get it. Focus on the fact that the “rules” are different out of town than they are where you’re dating. That will certainly be less hurtful than implying that they’re too old to be helpful here.
The most painful feeling, especially for parents, is the feeling that one is irrelevant. While your parents may not be the world’s greatest experts on the current scene, they’re still experts on one really important area — you! They know you and have your best interests at heart more than anyone else. If you can include them in that capacity, the other capacities may not be as necessary.
Keep them in the loop, let them know how the dates went, ask for guidance about issues that come up as they relate to your personality and needs. This will make them feel relevant and connected and that’s what parents really want. (In general, this is a great rule of thumb for life. If you can discern and address the real issue, the symptoms will often fall by the wayside.)
Wishing you the siyata d’Shmaya and wisdom to achieve what you need in the context of connection and respect.
All the best,
Originally featured in Family First, Issue 647. Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a licensed social worker and a dating mentor. She lectures on topics related to relationships, personal development, authenticity, and growth. She welcomes questions, comments, feedback, and interaction at email@example.com