The Unexpectant Life

I met someone who had decided very early on to give up on getting married.

She realized that she didn’t have the physique, the looks, the femininity, or the vulnerability. She is smart, talented, independent, and difficult to impress. In other words, she knew no guy was ever going to propose to her.

So she went on with life.

No shadchanim. No dressing up for the neighbors. No trying to toe the line. No sticking to communities populated with single men. Nothing held her back. She was free.

In many ways I am jealous of her. Untethered by hope, she can move methodically forward to a clear, well-defined future. How pleasant it must be to never wonder and never wish for the unattainable.

And yet…

How terrible it must be to never wonder and never wish—to know with a morbid certainty that you are to remain single forever.

And also…

Is it possible to never wonder and never wish? Can even the most cerebral person accept with a cool conviction a future unpartnered?


27 thoughts on “The Unexpectant Life

  1. I don’t understand her view. Does she think that she’s more intelligent and independent than all the married female Supreme Court justices, heads of state, and cabinet members, or does she think that she’s less attractive than they are?

  2. I hope she gets married! She doesn’t need to call shadchanim, dress up for the neighbors, toe the line, or stick to communities populated with single men in order to get married; many people get married without any of that. The Ribbono Shel Olom is mezaveg zevugim.

  3. As Random said, there are plenty of people who do their own thing and dress how they wish who live wherever they want to live and marry. Happily. Not even because they’ve decided to eschew marriage; because it makes sense to them to live their life how they wish.

    Your post made me think if I am doing any drastic, anti-personality sacrifices in my quest for marriage. I like makeup. I like clothing. I would be polite anyway, nor would I be able to tell anyone off. I don’t, for the most part, do anything that violates my principles.

    I think I’m living my life the way I would want to anyway.

    “She realized that she didn’t have the physique, the looks, the femininity, or the vulnerability.” These are criteria for marriage?

    “She is smart, talented, independent, and difficult to impress. In other words, she knew no guy was ever going to propose to her.” I know plenty of women who qualify both ways and are married.

    I was thinking of Devorah HaNiviah. She’s prophesying on a mountaintop, going out to war, her services being requested left and right. She was married at a time when there was definite sexism and loads of machismo.

    Did your friend decide not to pursue marriage out of fear of being rejected, or does she truly believe her motives?

  4. Part of the beauty of dreams is that there is hope. The way you describe it, I believe for this young woman she did define her hopes and dreams by what she perceived to be what guys want. In business, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is underestimating the competition, while believing you alone got what it takes to make it work. She made that mistake and underestimated guys

  5. “How terrible it must be . . . to know with a morbid certainty that you are to remain single forever.”
    It is terrible. I know. But perhaps your friend is simply resigned to it not happening or doesn’t feel a need to pursue it, but for her, unlike for me, it is not a certainly, not an impossibility.
    I guess she’s better off than I am. She’s made up her mind so she doesn’t have to wish? I am forever wishing.

  6. Kudos to her for not hanging her hopes up on the whole process. Sometimes, it just happens, and freaking out because it’s not happening is counterproductive to healthy living.

  7. You know how you sometimes whine about how you did terribly on a test, only to be pleasantly surprised when the high scores come back? Sounds like that’s what she’s doing. Every person I’ve ever met who has decided, for reasons like that, not to get married, seems to be attempting to insulate themselves from the ontic loneliness that results from lack of a partner. In my experience, if the right person came along they’d be more than happy to tie the knot.

    At any rate, “smart, talented, [and] independent” are exactly the qualities I’d hope to find in a girl. The lifestyle you portray for her sounds like what I and many other guys I know would find highly desirable. Why would you, or she, think independence and freedom from the shidduch system undesirable traits?

  8. It’s fun to listen to all you guys, but
    Harryer- You would not go out with her based on her appearance.
    Janet – Just smarter than any of the men she’s met, and yes, less attractive than, say, Sandra Day O’Connor. Who is a Southern gal, so she doesn’t count.
    And Adam: “independence and freedom” are easily the same thing as “weird” and living wherever you want makes you “geographically incompatible” and let’s face it, that’s how it goes. I think it is brave of her to face reality and move on – if she has.

  9. Someone I know and respect once said (in response to the question of “What is the place in frum society for a woman who does not want to get married”) that “there is none.” At first, I was really upset by that comment. It was explained like this though: The normal thing-physically and emotionally-is that a woman does want to get married. If someone doesn’t, there’s usually a bigger reason than the reasons described in this post. Sorry to burst your bubble, bad4, but in all likelihood, she didn’t give you the real reasons.

  10. Random Shadchan – While your posts have a ring of truth to them, it is important not to forget that one cannot rely on miracles. One must do what one can to meet potential mates, if he or she is interested in getting married. A girl cannot sit at home and expect the mailman or shnorah to be her match made in heaven. Many in the yidishe velt have come to rely too heavily on shadchanim, which has in my opinion stunted the ability of men and women to meet on their own and has motivated the present difficulties.

    As an example, I can tell you that I later became aware of one girl who I knew who was interested in me, but never approached me about it or talked to me. I found out years later from her friend, and I totally would’ve been interested in dating her, but by that time she moved to an area where she felt she would be more likely to find a mate. If she had only approached me or talked to me, perhaps things could have worked out. Girls need to be more assertive, as do guys. There is no reason why a 22+ year old man or women should be beholden to a shadchan. As Rav Pruzansky writes in this fascinating article ( guys and girls should be able to meet on their own, whether it be at kiddushes, weddings, in college or through friends.

  11. Joseph HaTzair:

    Exactly my point! I am not saying that she should lock herself in a closet, but she does not necessarily need to run to meet shadchanim, or dress to impress people, or be someone she is not. (And by being herself, she is more likely to find someone who is actually looking for her.) You yourself admit that the girl who was interested in you could have dated you in the area she thought less “likely to find a mate”.

    Opportunities abound – there are friends, neighbors, co-workers, all of whom may know someone. The Ribbono Shel Olom does not lack for messengers who can do His work. I don’t think it’s a miracle when things work out that way, any more or less than it is a miracle when a shadchan makes a shidduch, or a couple meets on their own.

    The only thing you seem to be overlooking is that she has not been able to meet someone on her own, or she would not be resigned to remaining single. I’m not saying it can never happen – it often does. But allowing other people to make suggestions my expand her number of options. By the way, you seem to think that shadchanim are a recent introduction into Jewish society, as indicated by your remark re: stunting the ability of couples to meet on their own. As it happens, shadchanim pre-date casual dating.

  12. Random Shadchan –

    I’m glad to see we’re on the same page. In re the girl who moved to an area in which she thought she would be more likely to find a mate, my point was that if only she had taken a proactive approach and approached me or talked to me, perhaps we would have ended up going out. This could be true of many cases where a guy and girl are familiar with each other but don’t move forward because they feel that any relationship could only be ‘kosher’ if it was officiated by a shadchan.

    I am interested in your claim that shadchanim pre-date casual dating. Can you refer me to a source for this claim? As far as I know, the gemara (Taanis 30b-31a) writes about how girls used to out on Tu B’Av dressed in white and mingle and meet men on their own. As the gemara relates, “there were no happier days for [Am] Yisrael” then this. Look at how our avos and imahos met.* I have also been told that the Agudah used to organize popular singles events where our bubbies and zaidees actually did get a chance to shmooze with the other gender. I am not talking about dating casually, if by casual dating you mean dating without the intention, aspiration or goal of marrying, but purposeful and natural meeting and courting.

    Chadesh yamenu k’kedem!

    ויהי כאשר ראה יעקב אתרחל בתלבן אחי אמו ואתצאן לבן אחי אמו ויגש יעקב ויגל אתהאבן מעל פי הבאר וישק
    אתצאן לבן אחי אמו

    ויגד יעקב לרחל כי אחי אביה הוא וכי בן רבקה הוא ותרץ ותגד לאביה

  13. @harryer she may’ve underestimated a special few, but don’t tell me that most guys don’t want looks, femininity, and vulnerability, cause they do. Odds are, those that’re lacking in any of these three traits will suffer for it.

  14. Little Sheep: Good point.
    Joseph Ha Tzair: Thanks. Interesting article which leaves me with some questions.

    For the most part, I think that singles meeting in a controlled setting such as a wedding or kiddush should be encouraged.

  15. Long time reader, first time commenter. I’m a little distressed by the contents of this post. Sure, if your friend actively doesn’t want to get married, more power to her for foregoing the shadchan system and being brave enough to claim her independence.

    But if she is interested in finding a life partner, why can’t your friend simply do what so many other people do: realize that the shidduch system is not going to work for them, and take a step into a world where people actually meet and talk to each other?

    Not to toot my own horn or anything, but as I am just a name on the internet, you wouldn’t know anything about me unless I told you, so here goes. I am smart, independent, talented. A little pricky. I don’t think I’m particularly pretty or attractive. I have unusual and unique interests, and I have no sense of fashion or style whatsoever. I don’t wear heels or makeup, and my hair is curly. I have high standards for guys, and I have never toed the line.

    And I am married.

    I’m married because I put myself out there. Not in the shidduch way, but in the “being willing to talk to single guys” way. You talk about dating for marriage, and how relationships with guys should only be tachlis, but here I think that you’re so wrong. Talking to guys got me married. Having male friends got me a husband. Because I don’t think my husband would have been attracted to me on first sight. I think he was interested in dating me because I was friends with his friends–total platonic friends–and his friend knew that we had compatible personalities. Because I spent the time getting to know some boys as friends, I met my husband, who trusted his friends, and went out with me, and gave me a chance even though I’m not the prettiest girl on the market.

    My point is, it’s ridiculous that a smart, independent, unattractive girl needs to resign herself to spinsterhood because the shidduch system doesn’t know how to handle women like her. If she wants to be single, more power to her, but if she yearns for a life mate, then she should ignore the rules that wouldn’t work for her anyway, and maybe try a different route, one where she would actually be judged for who she is, rather than what she looks like and how well she can toe the line.

  16. Shadchanim are the oldest profession in the world, because how else did all the nice jewish mothers in the old days (and i mean 40 years in the desert old) find a lawyer for their daughters?

  17. Penina –

    Your post hits the nail on the head. It’s important to note that the successes you describe you had through meeting guys on your own came only because you had the confidence to do so. I think your story can be quite instructive and empowering for girls who feel trapped by a system beyond their control.

  18. Yosef Hatzair:

    Without going back to the days of the gemara, which I am not qualified to do, I can tell you that my grandparents apparently predate yours, and in “the old country” marriages were arranged by shadchanim. My impression is that casual dating is an American thing. I also believe that Tu B’av was an abberation, which is why it was noteworthy.

    I’ve found, by the way, that one advantage to using a shadchan is it gives people someone to blame!

  19. MCP: Ironically, I have the only Jewish father in the world who didn’t want his daughters to marry either.

  20. Nobody every wanted to marry me.
    Then I totally gave up on getting married,
    and suddenly girls wanted to marry wanted me.

  21. To all,
    I couldn’t agree more with Penina’s comments. For both guys and women, there are those for whom the shidduch system doesn’t work. For those who fit a narrow mold the system works well. The further out on the “normal curve” people fall the less likely this particular system will work.
    Some of the most beautiful and talented (handsome and Talented) people I knew did not marry (yet) Some of the most difficult and least attractive did. I don’t think this is a one size fits all solution.

    As to the old system and old country, I don’t think the picture painted by teachers and some Rabbis is fully true and certainly not true for Europe in the 20th century. Traditions were bleeding badly for many reasons. The Bais Yaakov system in Europe was a radical 20th century innovation to stem the bleeding of jewish women to secularism and the life style not compatible with jewish lives and traditions.

    That being said, it is clear for many the shidduch system does not work. Do they remain single as bad4 feels her friend will be or do they try an alternative. I think the latter is better. I don’t think it’s a mitzvah to remain single rather than move out of the shidduch system. The only question for those in the system is when to move.

  22. She realized that she didn’t have the physique, the looks, the femininity, or the vulnerability. She is smart, talented, independent, and difficult to impress. In other words, she knew no guy was ever going to propose to her.

    People of all physiques, looks, level of femininity, and level of vulnerability get married all the time.
    People of all levels of intelligence, talent, independence, etc get married all the time.

    And there is no way for her to know that she will remain single forever.

    But it is good that she has made peace with herself and can continue living a healthy lifestyle (mentally and physically).

    Shabbat Shalom to all!

  23. Yes, she’s one of those feisty Texan lasses. I wouldn’t compare her to your average Yankee Jane.

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