Matchmaker frustration

Long time reader and commenter Sheldan sent me the following last week. I decided to post it in its entirety so the rest of you could also read and comment.

Hadassah,

This Shabbat I was reading the April 2 issue of the Jewish Press and the “Im Yirtzeh Hashem…By You” column.  Here is the article in its entirety:

Dear IY”H:

I wasn’t super-young (not in my 20s) when I got married, and thus was in the singles scene for quite a while.  I am no longer a newlywed, but still at that happy stage–as I am so thankful to finally be married.  But I am still not so far past my single days that I have forgotten all the drama and woes of being single.  With those facts as background, I try as much as possible to be involved in shidduchim on a volunteer basis.  I have been on committees for singles events, and everywhere I go I meet and speak to people, trying to get a sense of what they are looking for.

A while back I met a sweet young girl and her mother at a simcha, and a few months ago I met a woman who is looking for a shidduch for her son.  Based on what I know of the woman, I figured that if the boy is anything like his mother, he might be a good shidduch for the girl I met at the simcha.

As per standard procedure, I was to get the girl’s information and pass it on to the boy’s mother so they could begin looking into the prospective shidduch.  But when I called the girl’s mother, she refused to give me the needed information.  She wanted me to first give her the boy’s information because, the thinking goes, why should they even start the process if the mother hears something and decides that the shidduch is not shayach.

I agree, but usually the boy’s family first makes that determination.  I explained this to the girl’s mother, telling her that the boy’s mother does not want to put any more effort than her into this possible shidduch that may not be shayach.  I added that since we’re on the phone anyway, and since this is the way the things are generally done, I would like some basic information about the girl to get the process started.  And besides, if she wants me to have her daughter in mind for other boys, I would still need that basic information.  After all, how can I think of boys for her when all I know about her is what she looks and sounds like, along with a very basic sketch of the personality type she is looking for.

Once I put it that way, the girl’s mother seemed to be more willing to comply with my request for her daughter’s “shidduch resume.”  But then she said that she was in the middle of something when I called, and that she’d get back to me with the information I requested.  Months later, I’ve yet to hear from her.

I did not call the boy’s mother for her son’s information (to share with the girl’s mother) because that is simply not the way things are done.  I figured that if the girl’s mother were serious about finding a shidduch for her daughter, she would have gotten back to me.  After all, she has much more to gain from this than I do.

My time is limited and I am not being paid for this.  I have my own life and obligations, as well as other calls to make regarding potential shidduchim.  Am I asking too much by seeking people’s cooperation with me, especially when I am merely following common protocol?

I am beginning to think that parents’ lack of cooperation is a major contributing factor to the growing numbers of “older” singles, with the age of being considered “older” constantly getting pushed back.  (When I was younger, a 22-year-old girl was considered “starting to get older” whereas now, 22 is considered young.)

If volunteer shadchanim like me, who expect nothing in return, are met with resistance by the singles’ parents, it is not such a great mystery as to why girls are 22 and still single.

Having married later in life compared to my peers, I try to be a little bit more understanding regarding the plight of singles.  It seems that singles do not have a chance for success because they do not even get to go out in the first place.

What are your thoughts on this issue?  My strong reaction may be going a bit too far–but can you blame me?  Wouldn’t you be frustrated?

Sincerely,

A Wannabe Shadchan Who Feels Unwanted

[Sheldan] After thinking about this letter, I suddenly had a strong reaction.  I don’t think I am comfortable writing back to IY”H, but I think I would feel comfortable in a forum like yours to air this.

This is my opinion:  When I kept reading about ”standard procedure,” ”the way things are done,” and “common protocol,” I got the same reaction that former Indianapolis Coach Jim Mora had when someone from the press asked him to comment about his team’s chances of making the playoffs:

“PLAYOFFS?!”

(In case your readers didn’t catch the reference, I am sure that it can be Googled, and there was a commercial for Coors beer that lampooned Coach Mora’s response.)

Somehow, my brain kept screaming, “PROTOCOL?!”

To the letter writer:  The more I think about what you are writing, I think that you are well-meaning, but your insistence on doing things “the way things are done” is actually interfering with your chances of success.  Several times in the letter, you kept insisting that since “this is the way things are done,” your prospective shidduch’s mother should automatically do things your way.

If you are asking if you are asking too much for demanding that people “cooperate” with you exactly as you define it or you will not pursue it, I would say yes.  I think that harping on “the way things are done” shows little respect for the way the parents think things “should be done.”

First, if the shidduch is not shayach, what difference does it make which side put more effort into research?  The girl’s mother has every right to find out the same information about the boy that the boy’s mother has to find out about the girl.  Maybe the girl’s mother thought, “I’m not going to put up with this youngster’s demands that I do what she says–if she won’t cooperate with me, then I can find plenty of shadchanim who will.”  In other words, you assumed that the girl’s mother couldn’t do without you, which is arrogance on your part.

You state that ”It seems that singles do not have a chance for success because they do not even get to go out in the first place,” but you also blame the singles’ parents for why “girls are still 22 and single.”

I think that maybe you need to rethink your ideas about “the way things are done.”  We don’t do things the same way as the 1950s, the 1900s, the 1850s, or the 1700s.  I think you unwittingly, when you refused to bend to the girl’s mother’s request, prevented the shidduch from taking place.  Maybe it may not be too late to do something about it.  If you explain that the shidduch depends on both sides giving the information equally to the other, I think, if the mothers are aware, they will consent to a mutual exchange of information.  Shidduchim do not need to be blocked by anything if they are truly beshert.

While I composed this, I had another thought.  I know that in a different era many Jewish girls got married by 22.  But it seems that nowadays, claiming that a 22-year-old is “older” is a bit much.  If anything, I would argue that the mid-20s might be the best time to get married now (and if singles stay single into their 30s, 40s, or beyond, I would be happy whenever they get married).  But in full disclosure, I have not been a part of the shidduch system and I do not claim to understand much about it.  I know that your readers may be more knowledgeable about the shidduch system than I and could explain it to me.

Therefore, I think this would make a good subject for your blog.  You may use as much of it as you like, should you choose to use it.

Sheldan

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  1. Both the original letter-writer and Sheldon have valid points.

    If things are indeed normally done a certain way, then it is reasonable for someone to assume they will be done the same way in the future. The author of the letter has done nothing wrong assuming that communal mores will suffice.

    Furthermore, if the girl’s mother refuses to surrender information until the boy’s mother does so first, then what happens if the boy’s mother says the same thing? The girl’s mother was unreasonable and irrational. It’s like when you bring nothing to the pot-luck because you figure someone else will – what if everyone thinks like you? I believe it was Kant who said that any ethical standard is true and right only if it is universifiable, i.e. it can be extended to the entirety of a society and still “work”. In this case, if everyone waited for the other to surrender information first, we’d have no shiddukhim. The author of the letter was merely following minhag, but the mother held by an unsustainable and unreasonable and irrational standard.

    Personally, if I were the girl’s mother, I’d feel betrayed, if I ever found out. Perhaps this boy is fitting for me, but my mother stood on principle at my expense. How dare she??!!

    That said, Sheldon has a point. Why should the girl’s mother have to go first, according to the minhag? Maybe we should be more egalitarian! But the error, if so, is in the minhag itself and the community who established it, not the author of the letter who was merely trying with good intentions to keep communal norms.

    If I were the author of the letter, I’d try to call the boy’s mother first and get his information. If the mother wants to be intransigent, and if the minhag is actually unreasonable itself (as per Sheldon), then I’d try to get the boy’s information from the boy’s mother, against “protocol”. The author of the letter has done nothing wrong, and the fault lies entirely, in my opinion, with the mother and with the minhag, but I’d try to go beyond the letter of the law, as it were, and be a hasid, and see if doing things in an unorthodox manner would yield fruit.

    • Oops, “Sheldon” should be “Sheldan”. Sorry!

    • Oh, and I hope the author of the letter does try some unorthodox modes, because it really wouldn’t be fair to the young men and woman in question to deprive them of a potential shiddukh just because the girl’s mother is intransigent and the community’s minhag is unfairly sexist. The children shouldn’t have to suffer for the sins of the parents.

      • sheldan says:

        Michael,

        I think you argued both sides well in your first comment. I would agree with you regarding the fact that if someone doesn’t go first, nothing will get done. My point is that it is more important that the shidduch happen, and, with all due respect, the heck with protocol. I respect the importance of doing things according to the local custom, but if that’s not getting the job done, the letter writer must do something else.

  2. Chav says:

    I read that letter in the JP and felt almost the same way Sheldan does. Who cares how things should or always have been done. Just do it. I have little patience for people who insist they are trying to help yet they cannot get their head out of the box it was put in. Hey, but that’s just me.

  3. How rigid, how awful. How sad. I mean it on both sides.

    • sheldan says:

      Chav and Batya from Shiloh,

      It is really sad when “protocol” gets in the way of the shidduch. I wonder how many here would not be married if they had listened to “protocol” and discouraging others and abandoned their courtship?

      Again, I want to stress that I do have respect for local custom, but local custom can change with the times. The rigidity of some customs is really mind-boggling, but then again I am not in that area and am limited as to how much I can criticize it.

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