It’s been a while since I wrote a 5-paragraph essay, so excuse me if it comes out klunky. But my response to Thinking Jewish Girl’s post sounded so much like a response to an SAT essay prompt that it seemed the natural form for this post to take. Since fat paragraphs weary the online reader, I have taken the liberty of breaking up my 5 paragraphs into smaller, bite-sized chunks. But the droning style remains.
Orthodox Jewish singles generally do not ask each other out on dates directly. Instead, they communicate through a shadchan—a matchmaker—whose involvement ranges from introducing the couple to setting up the time and location for their dates and communicating any concerns or reservations after the date.
Thinking Jewish Girl states that the shadchan is an important assistant in expediting a couple’s engagement and marriage because if the couple had to speak about their reservations directly with each other they would have disagreements and break up over minor differences. I disagree. I think the shadchan actually increases the likelihood of a couple breaking up over minor differences by preventing both parties from having to discuss their reservations with each other.
Thinking Jewish Girl is right that a very involved shadchan can smooth over many differences. If a girl is distressed because her beau didn’t wear a tie, for example, or tip the waiter generously, the shadchan can relay to the boy that these things are important to her. This works for larger differences as well. If the boy is worried that the girl is too career oriented to spend time at home with her children, but doesn’t feel comfortable challenging the girl about it, the shadchan can tip off the girl, who can then make a point of expounding upon her maternal persuasions on the next date. Thus, it is true that a shadchan can help two young and shy people smooth over many differences.
However, a shadchan does not always have a clear picture of what occurs on the date, and one of the daters can easily leave out important information or simply refuse to pass it along. A young man may not feel comfortable telling an older woman that he found his date’s eating habits unattractive, or a young woman may not want to say that the guy gave her a creepy vibe or scrapes and stacks. In many cases, all the shadchan hears is a brief summary and a “yes, I’d like to go out again” or the reverse, “no, I don’t think she’s for me.”
And there are many reasons why a shadchan may be unable or unwilling to press for details. As a result of this dynamic, it is easy for one of the daters to turn down another date without providing sufficient reason to the shadchan. This essentially stonewalls the shadchan, preventing him/her from filling that essential role TJG assumes in her statement.
If daters could not break up through a shadchan, they would have to break up in person, meaning by communicating directly with their partner. In many cases, a simple “not for me” would not be sufficient. Some sort of reasoning would be required. Faced with wide eyes and silence, most people will strive to fill the silence, often with excuses or explanations. This would force a dialogue between the couple, wherein they examine their differences and decide, together, if it is worth breaking up over. Breaking up is simply much more difficult. Couples who have to break up in person using ‘State of the Union’ conversations are more likely to date for longer before breaking up than couples able to break up through a shadchan.
Therefore, I believe, that while shadchanim perform an important service in connecting young people who might otherwise be too shy to ask each other out directly, they also do some harm, by permitting those people to be just as shy about breaking up, and do it more easily, sooner, and with less provocation by doing it indirectly.