| Counter Point |

Why Risk Shidduchim?

The Open Mic piece on “Why Risk Shidduchim?” (Issue #786) has drawn significant and sustained feedback. Below is a sampling
Painful Pattern — R.S.

I found R.L.’s Open Mic piece to reflect the painful truth. As a 22-year-old woman, I see this pattern playing out among my friends and acquaintances.

While I was fortunate to marry at the very young age of 20, the majority of my friends remain single today. Many of them started out on an “acceptable” career path as 18- and 19-year-olds. As they grew fed up with a system denying them the opportunity to date, many changed their career aspirations.

One friend began her journey believing she would eventually work as a PA; she is currently applying to medical school. Another girl, an aspiring interior designer, is attending architecture school, while another friend, already a CPA, is pursuing a master’s in tax and plans on attending business school in the near future.

None of these girls want to sit around and wait to get married. “Waiting to get married” is not an occupation. At the same time, many girls who pursue advanced education and careers find shidduchim even more challenging. These girls are deemed “older” or “too accomplished.”

The society we live in presents a paradox: We want our girls educated, but not too educated; and to earn enough to support our learning men, but not so much that they will dominate the marriage. Mothers of boys seek out girls who are occupational therapists, speech therapists, social workers, and ABA therapists. These jobs are considered non-threatening and prove the prospective girl is “motherhood material.” A girl pursuing a law degree often faces rejection because of her chosen path of career.

Even less prestigious careers face criticism. One woman who called me for shidduch information decided the candidate was not suited to her son because the girl was in PT school. She asked me if the girl would consider switching to OT school if she married her son (which of course she would not do). This rejection then reinforces the older single girl’s decision to follow a career-focused path as opposed to a marriage-focused path.

The irony of this situation is that a lawyer, a doctor, or a psychologist is far more equipped to support a family than the “acceptable” career choices. These girls are accomplished young women who deserve serious consideration in the shidduch system.

Why Risk Shidduchim?

Fast Track to Disaster — Seen Enough, Far Rockaway, New York

R.L.’s Open Mic notched down the shrill phrase “Shidduch Crisis” to a focused, thought-provoking reality that our community needs to address.

Having had children in shidduchim for seven years now, I’ve heard all the “hock on the block.” Some of this hock includes “Good boys are rare finds,” and — excuse me for being blunt — “Good boys are for sale to the highest bidder.”

Where are the good boys? Why aren’t there enough to go around? In this age of incredible Torah, avodah, and gemilus chasadim, we should have more than enough good boys who are seeing all the wonderful things our community has to offer. Why then aren’t there enough good boys for our good girls?

Many of us adults were tracked for math back in sixth grade. Among those of us who were placed in the lower tracks, how many of us still say, “I’m not good at math” — or at the very least, chose a profession that doesn’t involve any math? I would guess all of us.

Now think of our boys. At the same age that we were assigned a track in math, we are currently tracking our boys. But the considerations don’t extend only to how well they understand shiur. This tracking system is also about behavior. It’s about dress. It’s about “toeing the party line.” So if your 13-year-old son would like to act age-appropriate, by showing a bit of independence in his dress and a little defiance in his attitude, he just might be assigned to a lower track, regardless of his intellectual capacity. And just like ours with mathematics, his future in Gemara — or even in religion in general — will be allocated to a certain track.

That is not to say that there are no young men who turn around. There are students who have risen above the tide and become strong learners. But as a collective whole, we have not set the stage for that. We, as a collective whole, are putting our children on tracks leading to a destination.

How many of our boys who have been assigned to a bottom track could have been “good boys” upon reaching shidduch age if the schools had invested in them too? If the school had given these boys more time, nurturing, and patience, rather than assigning them to a lower track, then perhaps these boys too would have blossomed later in their high school career.

And if you’re thinking that your son is too holy to be exposed to such lowly riffraff, then consider the following question: Do you have a 21-year-old daughter waiting for a date? Are you wondering where all the “good boys” are?

Maybe one of these “wild and crazy” (i.e., leaves his shirt untucked, cuts class, or comes late to davening) 13-year-old boys could have been your daughter’s bashert. Unfortunately, your daughter’s bashert was discouraged at 13, and opted out of the system.

So maybe we owe it to our 21-year-old-daughters to exhibit more patience and nurturing to our 13-year-old sons. Maybe their future as the next generation of wives and mothers is dependent upon it. It’s not so far-fetched.

Take a good look at all our “systems” — our acceptance policies of preschool, high school, seminary, and yeshivah — and think: Have we created our own monsters?

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 788.)

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Comments (3)

  1. Avatar

    My comment was not about finding society’s term ‘best shidduch’. I’m sorry you interpreted it that way.

  2. Avatar

    This well-meaning objection to discouraging single girls from pursuing advanced careers is disturbing.
    If you think about it, many of our halachos take into account basic human nature as opposed to insisting that people just “ought to behave better.”
    With that in mind, I find the attitude of “single girls should be able to pursue whatever career they want, at whatever level” without acknowledging the risks of those decisions, deeply misguided. At best. Of course not every girl will be fulfilled by a simpler job and girls who have a strong skill and passion for a certain line of work should be encouraged to pursue those careers regardless of their prestige.
    But if a girl is considering pursuing an advanced position or degree just to make more money, or for status, or simply as an alternative to “waiting to get married” as you put it, is that really the best idea? On a purely logical level, does that extra money (or stature) really justify putting oneself in a position where men might have to fight their nature to be comfortable with the idea?
    As a guy, I never had a strong passion for the career in finance I have today. But I didn’t expect a large number of girls to just “get over themselves” and date me if I wasn’t able to provide a respectable living. And it’s a choice I’m happy I made.
    There are many ways to grow and accomplish while still single. Perhaps seek an option that doesn’t demand asking potential suitors to fight their human nature.

  3. Avatar
    Debbie Greenblatt

    To ‘Seen Enough’ and all mothers out there:
    Remember that the best shidduch is not the best boy, it is the best husband for your daughter, or wife for your son. The best is often used to being treated as such. Wouldn’t you rather a spouse that treats your child as the best?
    We have a crisis of confidence. Too many parents look at a prospective mate for their child through the lens of how it will make them look in the eyes of their peers and community. The ‘best boy’ or ‘best girl’ is the stempel that they have succeeded; a living tribute to their having arrived. A boy or girl with any external imperfection is immediately rejected. It would do the whole situation well for parents involved in their children’s shidduchim to step back and take a fresh look at the situation. Ask yourself some hard questions. How well do I know my child and what internal characteristics are important to them in a prospective mate? Am I seeking that type of information when call references?
    Remember, the person you marry is the Rembrandt. The external circumstances are the beautiful frame. A beautiful frame enhances a picture, but a frame alone, without the painting doesn’t have much worth at all.