The bais Yaakov high-school graduate is suddenly handed a dizzying range of control over her life: what to wear Monday through Friday, how late to stay out at night, what ice cream to have for supper, what subjects to study in college.
Giddy on independence and control, the young single woman sees nothing but promise ahead—a life crafted to her desires, perfect by her own design. She has it planned out, step by step, from volunteer summer job this year to the influential career down the line. She knows exactly what it takes, and she knows that she’ll get there.
Except for one thing. The marriage factor. She’s not really sure where it fits in, though she’d be happy to adjust for it at any point. But neither does she know how to make it happen. And while she’s confident that she’ll achieve it, she really wishes she could see, just a little more clearly, how.
The phrase “career-path” is well-known. The phrase “marriage-path”—not so much. Even though we exercise reduced control over our employment, there are tried and true techniques for job hunting and ladder climbing. We know that if we keep at it, we’ll eventually meet with some success.
Not so with dating. Network at weddings, harass shadchanim—there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever get to sit across from a nervous young man and sip coke.
It’s disconcerting. Disheartening. Disgruntling. The most frustrating part of being orthodox, female, and single isn’t being single—it’s not being able to do anything about it. Men, at least, have their lists to occupy them, to maintain that façade of control. But women… well, how else to explain our inexplicable attachment to those SYAS accounts?
But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. With all the control we have over our lives, it’s easy to forget that we don’t make our own fate. Not to start quoting “kochi vi’otzem yadi” at you (or anyone—I’m talking about myself here… oh God I just sounded like a high school teacher twice in one sentence), but sometimes you need to ram into that wall to force you to stop, breath, and refocus. My dating status is out of my control, and so is everything else. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride, and stop backseat driving for God.
I was actually debating this with a guy last night. He argued that it was just as scary to sit across from girl after girl, never feeling a connection, never feeling like you were even close to what you’d been hoping for, as sitting at home and wondering. But I disagree. If you have the option of going out with that many people, and you know that this girl in front of you may not work, but there is already another possibility beginning somewhere in someone’s mind, I think it does become more like the career path thing. You know that you are going to be Doing Something toward that goal of yours, of finding someone, soon, and no matter how discouraged you are, there is always that sliver of hope and excitement at something new.
That being said, I think your point – that nothing is in our control – applies beyond even that stage of hoping to meet someone. I don’t hear as many people talk about this (maybe no one likes to admit it) but I think there is a point after you meet someone and you’ve been dating them seriously where things could go either way – you are both heavily invested but not yet sure if the other person is the one you really want to spend your life with yet. That, also, feels very ‘out of control.’ You wish you could just know the future – ‘Will I end up with this person? Or is every moment I spend with them just going to make my eventual heartbreak that much deeper?’ But you can’t. And the uncertainty, the fear of the unknown, remains.
How I remember that beautiful, gleaming light at the end of the tunnel when I was FINALLY free from BY. If I wanted to I could have pranced in front of my former principal in a skirt that JUST covered my knees. Oh, the possibilities!
Sure, I had it all planned out. A dude would show up on the first or second date that was obviously marriage material and we would make it work. Easy as pie.
It can definitely be said that my single state has made me, if anything, more religiously aware. It’s when things that don’t go my way that I realize my smallness in the universe. It has also inspired me to thank God profusely when things work out; He takes care of both.
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Great post. Having, bli ayin hara, success in all other aspects of life when doing due diligence (hishtadlut), it’s REALLY hard to go through so many years of being single, dating, networking, etc. and not seeing any payoff. I can say that it definitely makes me more aware how everything in life is controlled by G-d. But it’s still pretty tough.
So true and great advice. Now if only everyone else who is worrying that you haven’t had a date in 3 months would also listen to it!
I think the reason for this is because a person going through a challenge is given the kochos to successfully rise to that challenge, whereas the supporting cast are not necessarily thusly endowed.
100% true. then it happens. and then you have other manifestations of your complete lack of control. never goes away.
You totally have control! You have control of which websites you join, who you write to, who you respond to, whether you’re going to date more than one person at a time, and how you’re going to learn about yourself. But it’s totally frustrating. I did it for 11 years.
Remember girls, you are the future daughter-in-laws of queens. So put on some extra makeup before you go out… for e shvigger, of course!