Fairy Tales for Eligible Bachelorettes

I once heard Disney Classics described as tales to scare children so they don’t wander too far from home. Certainly the Grimm brothers’ tales can be quite frightening at times. Well, if ever there were tales intended to keep young ladies trembling behind their parents’ aprons, it is the Shidduch Urban Legend genre.

The shidduch urban legend is a frightening tale about a maiden who falls into the clutches of an evil ogre and has to be rescued. That’s the basic outline. I first encountered the shidduch urban legend in high school. They are the deliciously frightening tales that girls tell each other in the dark late on shabbaton nights, when everyone is too full of sugar to go to sleep yet even though the evening’s program has ended.

But they became socially sanctioned in seminary, when a teacher actually gathered us together to warn us of the dangers of going into the shidduch scene without the assistance of able parents, trained in private-eye investigation techniques. The first one she told was of the girl who married a ‘top boy,’ so fine and aidel, who, promptly after sheva brachos, locked her into their apartment and made her carry out his OCD whims like lighting 100 candles every erev Shabbos.She was eventually rescued by a close friend in a daring escapade that involved a fire escape. I think. I might have written that part in myself to round out the excitement.

A terrifying tale indeed. I think if she had told it in a deep spooky voice behind a crackling campfire deep in the woods in middle of the night it might have been more effective, but not too much. “I’d like to see any guy keep me prisoner when he’s providing me with matches,” I muttered to the person next to me. But when my friends started getting married I found myself keeping tabs on them to make sure they didn’t mysterious disappear, have apparent sudden regrets, or otherwise display signs of having married an obsessive-compulsive control freak.

The other story that I still remember was the one about the girl who was about to marry a best buy and such a mentch and so thoroughly researched. As a just-in-case her parents dialed around all the references again just to double check. Everyone affirmed that he was such a perfect guy.

“They may be getting engaged soon,” the parent informed the roommate reference. “So if you have anything to say, say it now, or the results will be on your head.”

The roommate affirmed that really, this fellow was a pleasure to know, and the couple-to-be blissfully careened toward their engagement.

Well, the next day a sleep-deprived roommate called back. He simply couldn’t have it on his conscience. Future-Groom wasn’t a pleasure to know. He was a verbally and physically abusive antisocial personality who shouldn’t be permitted power over a cockroach, let alone a sweet young lady. He just thought they ought to know this before the engagement.

The moral of the story, obviously, is that you can’t trust anyone to tell you the truth about anyone. But that hasn’t stopped me from insisting, with wide damsel-in-distress eyes and clasped hands, that my parents always contact a roommate to make sure I’m not dating a suave psychopath. Not that my dates are all that suave, but maybe he’s a really slick psychopath who can even feign sheepish awkwardness. But actually, their very imperfection is the most relieving thing about them.

Because the other moral of the story is that best bochurim and perfect guys are nearly always going to turn out to be psychologically messed up. I mean, have you ever heard a shidduch urban legend about an ogre who didn’t come highly recommended? No, it seems quite apparent that marrying a top guy is a recipe for disaster. Thank goodness I don’t generally rate top redts.

So here’s my question: do guys get fed this stuff too? If so, how does the evil enchantress manifest herself?

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28 thoughts on “Fairy Tales for Eligible Bachelorettes

  1. Here’s how it is. Don’t believe anything anyone tells you unless they owe you more than they owe the other person. If they don’t owe you more, find someone that owes you that is owed by them. Everything else everyone else says may or not may not be true. And in fact is effectively irrelevant. What they don’t say – the silences, pauses, unclear answers…. that is the best info you will get.

  2. Here’s MY question. Do you think the risk of marrying a sociopath is higher in the shidduch world, where everyone is reference checked, or in the rest of the world, where you don’t get references for your boyfriend/girlfriend? In the outside world you don’t get references, but you spend quite a bit time with the person AND with his or her friends, giving you the chance to draw your own conclusions – and not relying on “references” that may not have your best interests at heart. I’d say it’s a wash.

  3. I took a course in college (Children’s Literature) where fairy tales were analyzed. Disney merely made them rated G. They were satiric in nature, and nasty stuff, not only meant for children but for all of society.

    As for information – I can recall one of my best dates did not have a fan in a neighbor whom was called. I went out with him anyway, and had a good time. Some of my nastiest dates were given a 10/10 via inquiry. Moral: you can’t trust anyone not to be affected by other prejudices that can skew their judgment.

    These “ogres” (whether male or female) can possibly be found out, providing a long, leisurely dating process. In the end, the ogres can’t keep their warts under wraps all the time; there will be slip ups. To back up Tesyaa, date a while. There’s no rush. The wedding will keep. Enjoy getting to know the other person.

    Or the ogres will get you . . .

  4. yup- i’d agree wholeheartedly with the now-penultimate comment. if the couple in question had done a bit more than have seven sit-ins in a lobby, said damsel may have been able to draw her own conclusions based on observation, eliminating the need to trust public (or private) opinion. it doesn’t help that broken engagements are still taboo. there are no halachic ramifications of an engagement these days (just don’t appoint witnesses or have intent during the transfer of the ring)- better break that than a marriage.

  5. I’ve never heard any horror stories from the guy’s perspective. I’ve heard stories about girls doing annoying/stupid things (actually, one fo thsoe just happened to me), but none of the she-was-really-a-witch variety.

  6. PS- disney movies themselves ought not to be rated G. they don’t smooth over much. they just trust that it’ll go over everyone’s heads.

  7. Here’s the shidduch ogre story I heard: Young couple gets engaged; kallah spends Shabbos in chosson’s neighborhood and has lunch with the future in-laws; meal ends, and father asks his wife for tea; he asks 3 times before she gets around to bringing it, and he slaps her for it; kallah, understandably shaken by incident, unburdens herself to chosson, who responds, “Well, he had to ask three times…”; engagement (thankfully) broken.

  8. Massive personality disorders, inherent sluttiness (pardon my french, i could not think of a better term) a complete lack of all beautiful hashkafos she so eloquently espoused during the dating process, and worst of all, a complete disregard for halacha.

    These things have not happened to me, but that’s the fear of the ogre.

  9. I second both tesyaa and Princess Lea. As for one of the stories, maybe the bleary-eyed roommate had his own axe to grind with the guy; it’s possible. It behooves each person to get to know the other until they feel certain based on what they see for themselves rather than rushing to get engaged after 5 or 6 dates because all the info checked out.

  10. No there are no stories of witches going around. The reason is simple…guys don’t like drama. Girls love drama so they love hearing and sharing stories like this.

  11. People just want people to get married. And will say anything to help make that happen. Once, after receiving a glowing report, I asked the reference if he had a daughter of marriageable age. Affirmative. I then asked if he would want her to marry the guy in question. The long pause and slow throat clearing said it all.

    I personally know unfortunate women who were blatantly lied to about serious mental health issues of the shidduch, including by rabbeim. Also, I have met the Israel year kids who tell me about the truth about their “good” families with sterling names. So beware, the “better” the family, the more careful one has to be as they cover up everything that might spoil their squeaky clean image.

  12. Yes, there are issues with women that crop up as well, including hiding major familiar imbalances, lingering pervasive effects from eating disorders that create major body image issues (for her and her approach to the guy), religious committment, etc. People hide these aspects of themselves very well, and many references are reluctant to talk about them, though some will. I agree with the general consensus – DATE LONGER, maybe 2-3 months (or longer, depending on the relationship and the circle you’re in) and get to know the person as best as you can.

    Granted, you can NEVER know EVERYTHING about him/her before the wedding, but there is no reason not to be as informed as possible. You’re going to have to accept the person’s faults (and we all have them) as part of the package, so why not get a better glimpse of them and do some serious introspection to see if those aspects are something you could live with for the rest of your life.

    This is why I also highly recommend meeting parents and family WAY before engagement – as much as the guy/girl him/herself is truly the most important person, family is definitely part of the package, regardless of how great the person may have turned out in spite of the circumstances they were born and raised in. You might like the person, but can’t stand the overall negative traits of his/her parents and family, and you need to seriously consider if this is who you want to be a part of for all of your married life.

  13. I’ve only had two experiences I’d classify as bad dating experiences. The most recent one the girl kept saying she was interested but all her actions seemed to show otherwise.

  14. guys always talk about witchy wife stories. like this guy who went out with this girl that was given a ten out of ten by all the references. so he married her and she cheated on him. or the girl that flirted with his friends. or the girl that didnt want to dress properly. or the one that cursed out his mother for no reason. or the girl that decided she doesnt want to wear a head covering…during sheva berachot (true story!). how bout the girl who didnt want her husband touching her…ever…cause she had some type of negative experience (sad but true). how bout the girl that was a total slob and never ever cooked or cleaned…ever. or the girl that wanted her husband to make the big bucks but complains that he doesn’t give her any time and thus constantly wears him down. how about the girl that took birth control pills behind her husbands back for a very long time (just in case it ends up she wants to get a divorce). how about the girl never takes her husband seriously and doesnt respect him at all whatsoever and constantly reminds him how he got so lucky that he married her and she regrets it. how bout the girl that cared that she looked good for the neighbors but couldnt care less about looking good for her hubby. how about the girl that spends her whole day shopping then complains that their isnt any money. the list goes on and on.

  15. bored–How about the HUSBAND who is a total slob but never cooks or cleans> Oh wait…that’s all men.

  16. I heard stories on both sides. One story I heard was that the guy was really nice the whole time while they were dating and the moment they walking into the yichud room he started beating her and he told her to get used to it. Then when she walked out she was hysterically crying to the point where everyone noticed. Immediately, the rabbi walked over to him and demanded that he give her a Get. On the other side I heard a story that the girl was completely normal while dating, which was a very short time period.After they were married the guy quickly found out she was very badly anorexic and she quickly got very sick.

  17. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories and yes, they’re scary, but I think most of those things could be found out while dating and I don’t think interrogating references will help. At least now I know why all the girls are so crazy about their research, I though it was just b/c girls are crazy.

  18. References are put on a resume for a reason – because they have been vetted out and out “close” with the prospective date. People on both sides need to find someone who is on “your” side. Think about it, is the girl/boy’s close friend who is a reference really going to give you the dirt, even if you ask the right questions. Even the family’s Rav or boy’s Rosh Yeshiva/Rebbe will give you at the very least a nice report. After all, they owe you nothing and owe the person something.

    Hence, you should not trust the references. Call up people who are not their friends but know them from school/shul/college/business. People who are not meshubad and will look out for your interests. Only then did I get the real story about certain people.

  19. Interestingly, I have come across people who were given as references who did not have complimentary things to say about the person in question. How funny is that? I always thought the investigations were to get the “dirt” but a very good friend of mine who is very smart had told me that what she wanted to hear from references was how much they liked the person and the good things they had to say about him/her. That encouraged her to want to go ahead with the shidduch at hand. I probably could say the same thing because even though there were things to question about my latest child-in-law’s resume, I got such overwelmingly positive reports about them from people all over, not necessarily references, but them as well, and that gave me the chizuk to go ahead and I have not regretted it for an instant b”H. I guess none of us is perfect and if they are, their families may not necessarily be perfect (whose is?)but at least you hope you are informed about the issues your child may have to deal with.

  20. Even though I think it’s important for my parents to check out references before I date someone, and we have actually had self-referred people say that the guy has bad middos or something negative, I suspect some negative reviews are possibly from people with their own prejudices.

    I heard a Rebbetzin say that she tells anyone who asks about a shidduch with a certain family where the father was abusive to the mother that they shouldn’t pursue the shidduch. I know a lot of people believe that if there’s abuse in the family that it impacts the kids very seriously (and I agree), does that mean that this entire family should be doomed to never marry? What if the kid got therapy or had a close relationship with a normal family who helped him/her learn healthy marriage skills? To just say across the board that no one should date any of their kids seemed incredibly unfair to me.

    Recently I was redt a guy and a someone from his neighborhood said “stay away from his family!” I had a feeling that this was an overly broad/vague and therefore suspicious statement, so we investigated further. It turned out there were ridiculously irrelevant issues in his family (e.g. his father had a stroke), and he had a very loving stable relationship with his parents. Yet some neighbor was willing to destroy this boy’s prospects of getting married.

    Bottom line; I think it’s essential for all frum people to learn the halachos of giving advice for a shidduch. Everyone stresses the need to say things “l’toeles” but has anyone ever learned the laws of l’toeles? They are highly complex, yet easily accessible. And when in doubt, please ask a Rav before you doom a shidduch!

  21. There are definitely problems but there are definitely successful marriages where husbands and wives give to eachother. Enough of me hearing how all marriages are horrible and that top “bochurim” are horrible spouses. Please- there are plenty of women who make horrible spouses too. It’s about overcoming all of our problems that we are born with. Each man and woman for his/herself.
    With today’s society, there are men and women who many of us would prefer not to marry. But everyone has a shidduch out there somewhere. Everyone is beautiful and unique in someway. Let’s not bash people.

  22. I’m a high school kid, and last week I came across an article in Bina about three woman in abusive marriges- I was so freaked out. I really felt guilty about reading it. I think that the problem with all these stories is that it makes you think that these bad marriges are much more common than they really are. Also, I don’t think teens should be exposed to it- same reason.

  23. People only say good things when asked about a person for shidduch purposes. It’s a given. Which is why this nonsense about asking for references in shidduchim should be discontinued. That way there is no false sense of security and it is up to each person to figure out if the person they’re dating is a) normal and b) the right person for them. If the person comes with good references red flags are much more likely to be overlooked. You NEED to get to actually KNOW the other person before you get married! Why is that so hard for people to understand?!!

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