The Cringing Shadchan and the Indignant Single

“I have an idea for you. If you’re not interested I understand, but I thought it was worth a try. Let me know if he’s not your type. It wasn’t actually my idea—it was someone else’s—but they weren’t sure how you’d take it—you don’t mind, do you?”

Does anyone else face the cringing shadchan on a regular basis? I find myself soothing middle-aged women, assuring them that no, I’m not offended that they thought of me, I’m not upset that they’re redting me a guy, and I won’t hate them forever if he turns out to be a dud.

Why so hesitant? I and my single friends are waiting for their calls. Yes, we want to hear about the single guys they know. Frequently, we wonder why they haven’t called.

“My cousin has boys over every Shabbos. How can she not have found anyone for me?” is a typical grouse from a friend.  Or, “Not even a suggestion in six months. What is it about me that’s so hard to envision with any man?” Then there’s, “Her husband is the biggest macher in yeshiva.” Or “She’s a shadchan! She knows boys! Just never any for me!”

Trust me—there’s no need to apologize. We’re dying to hear from you. Just to know that you’re thinking about us.

And so I find myself soothing middle-aged women in black, reassuring them that I’d love to hear about this guy and look into him and no, honestly, I’m not offended—should I be?

Ay, there’s the rub.

While I rarely turn a guy down, and never trash a shadchan, these high standards of behavior are not universally upheld across the singles community.

“Can you believe it? My own cousin tried to set me up with a 60-year-old divorced Chabakuk father of 12 from the Shomron. What was she thinking?”

“Why do I subscribe to SYAS? So I can get set up with another Australian telephone repairman who has a criminal record? Should I really be  that desperate at 26?”

“If I get set up with one more off-again/on-again (the derech) chossid, I will scream.”

“I have a PhD in physics. How dare he try to set me up with a florist. A florist!”

Oh the horrors. Oh the offense of it. To be set up with someone so below one’s social standing, one’s intellectual bracket, one’s religious identification. It would be better not to be set up at all. But why must we choose between these horrifying extremes? Is it too much to ask to be set up with someone normal—that is, of our social standing, intellectual bracket, and religious identification? Aren’t there any of those around? Do we not merit to hear of them in our hoary years? Thus complains the unhappy single.

As for me, you can still call me with criminal Aussie telephone repairmen. I’ve never met one before, and I imagine it’ll be an intriguing experience. For my friends—well, do as you see fit. But don’t bother being apologetic about it. Your apology won’t show up in the retelling of the tale later that week, so don’t waste your dignity on it.

10 thoughts on “The Cringing Shadchan and the Indignant Single

  1. My issue with these seemingly well meaning shadchanim (and this is based on many years of my own personal experiences; YMMV): Random woman or man sees single female, thinks “I must help her, let me suggest a breathing male, no matter that he is probably totally inappropriate for her, or that I don’t know him or know anything about him. I am now a wonderful person for doing a good deed and I can sleep at night.” No thought at all for the feelings of the human beings involved in this. The “shadchan” now has a mitzvah under his/her belt and thinks he/she is helping singles. I don’t think it’s too much to ask of someone who wants to set me up to have a 5 minute conversation with the guy, and also not to make me feel like less than dirt if I do my own inquiries and decide NOT to meet this guy.

  2. I think SaraK is right. The Shadchanim (and I include myself here) need to do some more careful thought before randomly shooting off suggestions – as well as not making the suggestee feel bad if they turn it down for legit reasons. Doing all this “work” for the purpose of ego-stroking is ridiculous.

    I can only imagine how it feels to have someone approach you in such a shaky way and what that does to your confidence in the suggestion.

  3. See, you can’t win.

    You red a shidduch thinking, hey, you never know, and people think you are doing it to feed your own ego.

    You don’t red a shidduch unless you think it’s really on-target, and people are upset their phones don’t ring.

    As it happens, I err on the side of suggesting; on several occasions, I’ve been delighted to find out that my “shot in the dark” couple is getting married (and have remained so!) But that’s about making people happy, not about my ego. But I’ve also gotten the :”how could you suggest that family/boy/yeshiva for my precious daughter!?!?”

    So if you ever wonder why people hesitate to make suggestions, it’s because of the criticism you hear either way.

  4. There’s a difference between a “shot in the dark, not sure if their personalities will click” shidduch and a “I never met this guy, he might be a slovenly, mentally unstable, jobless loser but you should go out with him anyway”

  5. Sara K:

    Am pretty sure that most shadchanim are not suggesting “slovenly, mentally unstable, jobless loser”s. Certainly, when I have gotten the “how could you!” described above, that was never the reason. As I mentioned, it was the yeshiva/boy/yeshiva that was not up to their high standards. I was told that that yeshiva did not cater to metzuyanim, or that boy was not (fill in the blank) enough, or that family was not (fill in the blank) enough. I have no problem with my suggestions being turned down, and I never ask for a reason, but would can live without the “how could you!”s.

  6. I don’t know, RS, I’ve gotten a suggestion almost exactly like that not so long ago (yes, the mentally unstable and jobless as well as some other serious baggage) and was told I was too picky when I very politely turned it down.

    Anyway, it’s really apples and oranges; it sounds like you mostly deal with fairly young singles (and their parents!) who have very specific criteria as to what type of guy person they are looking for, whereas it sounds like SaraK is referring to a somewhat older crowd who are past the yeshiva/seminary period and wouldn’t turn down a suggestion based on something like that. It is my opinion that (contrary to what most people believe) younger singles tend to be “pickier” or at least more specific as to their exact criteria, while older singles are more open to hearing about out-of-the-box suggestions, as long as the person sounds stable and normal.

  7. Bingo, anonymous.

    @RandomShadchan, I am not in the yeshivish crowd and I would never turn down a suggestion based on something so superficial. I don’t even ask questions like that. It sounds like you do deal with a totally different crowd.

    When I come home from a date, or turn down a suggestion, with a reaction of “how could you” it’s for very major reasons, such as mentally unstable, jobless, a total slob, etc. (And yes, I’ve gotten all of those; and might I add that I am a smart, put together, well-educated professional who hasn’t been unemployed since high school.)

  8. I am sure it does happen that there are shidduchim red that are totally inappropriated; my point is that the reason that shadchanim sometimes :”cringe” is because we also get “how could you” when the candidate we suggested was respecable, just not right.

    The “that yeshiva is not for metzuyanim” was in response to a suggestion for a girl who was out of seminary about 7 or 8 years. The “how could you suggest that family” was from a family that was not yeshivish.

    I don’t think the response is so much a function of how old the single is, or how yeshivish, but of how the single (or his or her parents) view themselves; if you have a “what’s so special about this boy that I should consider him for my daughter” (I’ve heard that one too) attitude, then anyone less than “special” in your eyes, can be insulting.

  9. Shidduchim will always be painful because they reveal what people really think about you. If your friend knows lots of singles, but never has any suggestions for you, then you now know what you friend really thinks about you.

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