Whose Side Are You On Anyway?

Most of the time, a shadchan is particularly invested in one of the parties being set up. They’re not actually setting up pants and skirts. They’re setting up a skirt with their favorite nephew. Or a pair of pants with the neighbor’s aging daughter, lo aleinu.

This manifests especially in the follow-up to the date. The shadchan will call their principal party anxious to hear that it went well. If the principal party is less than enthusiastic, the shadchan won’t push. (S)he’ll apologize instead, and hasten to break the news to the auxiliary party. If the principal party is interested, on the other hand, the shadchan may press a reluctant auxiliary party to try again.

Sometimes, like when a friend sets you up with her cousin, you are not sure into which party you fall. Other times, like when your uncle picks out the best bochur in the yeshiva for you, it’s rather more obvious.

And sometimes you wonder.

Like when your sister-in-law’s brother meets a guy at sheva brachos who he thinks you’d enjoy meeting. You have no reason to assume he’d have anything but the best of intentions and a discriminating eye. After all, you’re best friends with his sister and a sibling of his favorite brother-in-law.

Until you find yourself on the most tedious date of your life with a guy who keeps jerking around to peer over his shoulder (just in case something exciting is about to take place? Does he have insider information?) in between talking with his mouth full about how much he earns.

Was he different at sheva brachos?

Or maybe… maybe his connection to the sister-in-law’s brother is actually closer than you think. Maybe the sister-in-law’s brother is trying to marry this guy off, and for that reason is setting him up with everyone in sight.

Of course, you would never converse with a member of the opposite gender when not dating, so you never have the opportunity to shout “What were you thinking?” at the sister-in-law’s brother. Instead, you politely tell your sister-in-law that you don’t think the guy is for you, but to thank her brother for the thought—it was very considerate and much appreciated.

Yeah, there are dates like that.

The ones that leave you mentally asking the shadchan: Whose side are you on anyway?

Travel the World, Meet New People, and…

Some are born shadchanim. Some achieve shadchanus. And some have shadchanus thrust upon them.

There are people who set up other people for a living. It is well known that they spend all their waking moments picking pink slips out of a pillbox hat and matching them to blue slips from a black Borsalino. There are also people who make a point of matching up singles. They meet singles and then meet other singles, and try to pair the two up. They create “shidduch circles” where they swap names with their friends. And so on.

And then…

And then there are the people who once set up their niece with the very nice boy down the block. Nothing much ever came of it, but the neighbor mentioned it to your aunt. And when your father said he was desperately seeking someone to set up his daughter, the aunt mentioned her to your father. And your father mentioned it to you, in the fashion of mentioning that strongly recommends follow-up action. And you, convinced that you’re going to see a professional shadchan of the first order, dress up, print crisp copies of your shidduch profile, and deposit yourself on her doorstep.

When does she sadly apologize for not being a shadchan? It varies. Sometimes it’s over the phone, so you have the option of discovering prior engagements that forces you to take an indeterminate rain check.

Sometimes it’s not until you ring her doorbell, and then you sit through the next half-hour being exceedingly engaging, because you know you’re wasting your time (and hers), but you don’t want it to show.

Sometimes it’s not until after the interview, when you realize that you just bared your soul to someone who was just being nice. She couldn’t bear to turn you away before. It wouldn’t have been nice to turn you down cold, considering your position as a rapidly aging single female. So she didn’t mention that she doesn’t actually know any boys (except the nice one down the block, but he’s married now to a very fine girl from Monsey). Now she can’t bear to see you leave with your hopes raised, so she breaks the news, very apologetically.

It’s not her fault. She just gave you an hour of her precious time too. And she’ll probably feel guilty for a whole day for not knowing who to set you up with. She might even call her friend to ask if her nephew is still single, only to find out that he’s learning at a yeshiva in Sydney for the next two years.

No, if anyone is responsible for the absurdity of the situation, it is that whole chain of people who are so desperate on your behalf that they conjure shadchanim out of the air where none exist, and pass them on, figuring, “It can’t hurt to meet people.”

Well, you can never tell.

It just takes the right person.

You need to be seen, you know.

Sometimes, chatting amiably to strange Women in Black, I wonder who failed to mention that the woman wasn’t actually a shadchan. Letsee… this woman is my mother’s, friend’s, friend’s… cousin? Sister-in-law? Something like that. So, it might have been the sister-in-law. Or the friend, or the other friend, or my mother.

I have to admire the number of links in the chain. Aren’t there only supposed to be three degrees of separation between orthodox Jews? And yet, here I am, discussing my  ideal mate with someone five degrees away; far enough for a serious game of broken telephone to take place.

My central nervous system generates glib answers to questions I’ve heard dozens of times before. Meanwhile, the back of my brain is wryly observing that in most aspects of my life, the opportunity to meet new people would be considered an exciting benefit. Really, why would this be any different?

I cross my ankles, sit up straighter, and try to enjoy the benefits of being single.