Choices, Choices

Kid in a candy shop
My “Dear Abby” account received the following question the other day:

“Do you have a method for deciding who to go out with, when you’ve received 3 suggestions at the same time, each of which is roughly in your ballpark but nothing that makes you jump in excitement…all in equal balance so as to cancel out any clear advantage one has over another?”

Excellent question! Yes, I do. Or maybe I don’t, but the decision is usually made for me. The algorithm goes like this:

Were any of them suggested by an aunt? He could be a one-legged leper with a closet full of dead wives, but if an aunt suggested him, we’re going out. Because my shoulder socket can only take so much torque.

(To be fair, no aunt has ever suggested a one-legged leper.)

Does one of them have a more aggressive shadchan? In the past, I have said “Yes” to one guy, and then gone out with two more before him because their shadchanim were so pushy. It was easier to go out with them than deal with the twice-a-week phone calls and emails.

“So this other boy, are you still going out with him?”

“Um, well, we actually haven’t set up a date yet.”

“Well let me know when you’re done with him.”

“That’s what you said two days ago.”

“And you never got back to me!”

Luckily, they were both 1nDs, so there was no overlap.

If neither of these decision-makers take the difficult task off my hands, it will depend on whether I actually want to date. Like, in general.

If I’m just coming off a dating streak, I probably don’t. I want a break to spend my Sundays doing things I want to spend my Sundays doing. It’s depressing to realize that it’s been a month since you’ve been out on your bike, and you have nothing to show for it except four more guys you won’t be seeing again.

If it’s been a while, I probably do. At this point I may be doing Tai Chi in the park Sunday morning, and instead of being Zen I’m wondering why my well of men has dried up. Is this it? Have I dated them all?

With that in mind, I consider the following:

Is one of them only temporarily available? Sometimes, you’ve okay’d someone ages ago, but he’s always busy when you’re free, and you’re busy when he’s free. If a guy has limited availability and I want to date, then I will give him precedence. If not, then not.

Is one of them local?  If a guy is far away, I know he’s going to arrive for our first date searching for a reason to break up. If I don’t want to date, I will pick him first. Otherwise, I’ll go with someone closer.

If no decision has been made at this point, then who cares? Hang both profiles on the wall and throw darts. If your aim  is anything like mine, you’ll wind up hitting the Chofetz Chaim portrait. And you can’t turn down a date with the Butcher of Radin, can you?

SYAS and Me

“You have a suggested match from YourFriend on SawYouAtSinai!” exclaims the flagged email at the top of my inbox. I’ve been staring at it a for a week now. So I unflag it, but refrain from deleting. I don’t know why. I have no intention of clicking through.

About five years ago, an identical email did get me to click through. I set up a profile just to find out who the guy was. I was disappointed, after all that effort,  to find out that I couldn’t see the guy’s name without plunking down cash. So i  logged off, but let my profile hang around a while. And that only got me more emails about matches being sent to me. Finally, I caved.

I signed up.

That credit card charge for 9 months of service could be described as the biggest instantaneous waste of money of my life, excepting the time I got a speeding ticket. My membership expired after 9 months without my having a single date to show for it. Somehow, I managed to refrain from renewing.

But my profile was still out there, floating around in Sinai-space. And not realizing that I wasn’t a Gold member, shadchanim would occasionally throw a match at me. But, as I explained to one shadchan, it never seemed worth $18 for just a chance at a date.

Things finally came to a head earlier this year when a SYAS shadchan  actually called me to ask what was up with my profile. “I see you’ve let most suggestions expire,” she said.

“I can’t exactly accept or reject,” I pointed out. “I’m merely a non-metallic member, restricted to hands-tied gazing at nameless profiles.”

“Oh,” she said. “Well would you like to sign up?”

“No, not really,” I said. “I can get no dates myself, without paying for the privilege. I can even get dates myself, often enough to keep me happy.”

“Well you’re lucky then,” she said briskly. “I recommend that you delete your profile.”

So I did.

But SYAS works on the candyshop principle. They keep dangling things in front of you until you give in and go inside. And the crazy part is, all the teasing and advertising and carrot-waving is done not by SYAS itself, but by well-meaning volunteers. All those friends and unpaid shadchanim who say “I saw this guy I think would be great for you on SYAS.”

You hear it a half-dozen times and it starts to get to you. Especially during dry periods when you start to doubt that you can find someone on your own, while everyone seems to know someone for you on SYAS, and maybe you’re going to die alone with cats because you’re too much a parsimonious curmudgeon to just sign up for what you know is an awful experience but which is also some kind of Singles Tax every woman must pay until she’s neatly stashed away in some man’s care.

Let’s be straight about this: The site isn’t exactly philanthropic. The singles can’t set you up with their discards, and the shadchanim aren’t allowed to bypass the website. Really, there’s no option but for you to bite the bullet and plunk down the cash.

But then my inner cat-lady says “No! I will not cave! I will not spend good, hard-earned money on a fruitless service with a debatable ROI!” And thus inspired, I straighten my back and stand strong against temptation. I can do this.

In fact, just typing that paragraph so inspired me that I think I’m going to delete that email. Thank you, YourFriend, for thinking of me, but I will stand strong.

Besides, I’d have to set up my profile again.

Hanging Out on the Boardwalk is Good For Shidduchim

Thanks, Relarela (or should I call you NEF #17 now?) for this post on why it’s important to Be Seen: because you never know who will make your shidduch.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that phrase and rolled my eyes at it. But apparently it’s true. Because you won’t believe who set up Chava and Mordy

Classifieds in New-Shidduchville

My Shidduchville correspondent got married a while ago and went to where all Shidduchville graduates go. Recently, she spied a classified in a local circular.

Wanted – Looking For a Shidduch for my amazing friend.  no space to describe her. Do you know of a great guy around 30, a ben torah,  who wants to live in israel? lets talk.

Well, there’s details for you. Although, truly, this seems to be how very many dates are set up. “Amazing Friend, meet Thirty-Year-Old Ben Torah. Talk about how you both want to live in Israel.”

Then again, I shouldn’t complain. There are shadchanim that require you to fill out multi-page questionnaires that include everything from where your parents grew up (Relevance, any?) to what school you want to send your children too (Because that will never change).

Is there a happy medium somewhere? I think so. But don’t ask me for details. I’m currently writing a mini-essay on The Role of My Rabbi in My Life for a shadchan.

Where Have All the Posts Gone?

I have always envied those really great writers who seem capable of banging out n0vels about things they know nothing about. Floridians who write about surviving the Klondike gold rush, or Californians writing about being a woman in modern Pakistan, or the NJ housewife writing murder mysteries placed in Communist China.

How do they do that? I wonder. How can they capture the experience so well when they’ve never experienced it? Of course, I’ve never experienced it either, so I don’t really know. But it seems very realistic.

Myself, I’ve always been stuck writing about things I know, like learning to drive with your parents in the backseat, or solving Laplace transforms. (That last one went over like week-old sushi in creative writing class.) Being a single dater in the Orthodox Jewish universe was one of those things.

Was.

Because I’m not any more.

No, please. Don’t engage me. I stopped being a player in the dating scene when I moved out of town.

There are about four single males in this city, and we managed to size each other up in a couple of months. There were some good efforts at setting me up with a dentist in St. Louis and a firefighter in Boston, which fizzled after less-than-fascinating phone conversations in which the gentlemen made it clear that if I wanted a date, I’d have to go to them. (Did I just call them gentlemen? Misnomer. I’m a whole lot more in-town than St. Louis. Seriously–the nerve!)

Those were the enterprising shadchanim. The ones who said, “He wants to live OOT, she wants to live OOT, let’s bring them together!”

Some didn’t even try. Paraphrased quotes from emails:

Shadchan: “I received your resume [Call it a profile! – editor’s note] and I deal with the type of boy you’re looking for. I heard you’re moving back to New York soon, is that true?”

Me: “Maybe in a year or so. But I visit regularly.”

Shadchan: “Well, email me when you do move back, and I’ll see if any are still available.”

AnotherShadchan: “I received your resume [It’s not a resume! – editor’s note] earlier this week and noticed that you live in OOT. When will you be moving here?”

Me: [to self] “When? When? Does anyone else see an objectionable assumption there?” [in email] “Maybe in a year, but I visit regularly.”

AnotherShadchan: “Because, you know, it’s so hard to get boys to travel even to Philadelphia, let alone to Baltimore. It’s just a hopeless cause.”

Me: “Thanks, I guess.”

YetaThirdShadchan: “I have your shidduch resume [It’s not a farshtinkener resume! It’s a profile! – editor’s note], and I have an idea of a great guy for you. Are you willing to relocate?”

Me: [dismayed] “For the first date?”

So, since I’ve moved to this lovely town, I’ve dated (as in, met in person) a grand total of two people. This is not a sufficient quantity to sustain a dating blog. Hence, a drop-off in quantity of posts.

Want more BadforShidduchim? Send dates. Venturesome fellows, not afraid to feel the dirt beneath their tires or ask directions from someone drinking beer on a couch on their front porch watching the cows come home.

Seriously, guys. You need to get out more.

Or you could just make yourself available when I’m in the tri-state area. Is this asking too much?

Friday Repost: Operation Marry Off Bad4

I can finally remember this weekend without any signs of PTSD. It was the weekend my parents introduced me to nearly a dozen women in the hopes that one might marry me off. I don’t know where they get their hopes from, but I guess hope is not a bad thing. If it keeps them busy and happy, I’ll put up with it. But I’d rather factor polynomials in my head.

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.

Thursday Link (Early): Dating Feedback

WotWentWrong exists because, it seems, I’m not the only person who goes on perfectly amiable dates and doesn’t get another one after. Sometimes you just wonder, why?

Not that I’d ever wonder to the point of asking, though. Not directly, and not through some third-party website. Heck, I rarely bother to ask the shadchan.

Still, the idea is there. This website has set itself up as a shadchan for the masses, ready to relay messages back and forth between parties, ranging from, “Let’s step this up a notch” to “If you would eat your soup instead of shoveling it, dinner dates with you would be much more enticing.” Except they promise to be more polite.

Good idea? Not? Who knows. I’ll never use it because I tend to have a shadchan involved. Would you?

PS: Do you think these guys set this up just so they could read people’s absurd, broken-hearted emails to each other?

The New Midterms

When I was in college, I would inevitably received a rash of redts during the most inconvenient times of the year: midterms and finals. When I graduated I worried that I would no longer receive any matches.

For a while it looked that way. Although I was driving in to New York City every 5 weeks, I inevitably spent those long weekends with friends and family, not with dates.

Then, with a long stretch of no major Jewish or secular holidays, I decided to just hang out in OOT for a few months, sans pilgrimage to the Big Apple. I booked a plane ticket for Pesach and planned to let my car grow fat on so little exercise as a daily commute.

Naturally, my phone started ringing off the hook. As did my Facebook account and SYAS profile. Three separate women who I’ve never even heard of called me up to say they had a guy for me. An old classmate sent me a FB message with the same content. And a rash of pre-accepted matches landed in my SYAS inbox. Naturally (and uncreatively), every one of these guys is located in New York. (Except for the Baltimorian being redt to me to for the third time.)

This is even worse than finals.

When you get set up during finals, you can play a scheduling game, where you space your dates conveniently between your finals. But when you’re planning to be OOT for four months, there’s really no two ways about it. Nobody can sustain a 4-month telephone relationship, so either you’re dating or you’re not.

And I’m not.

So what do you tell a shadchan when you’re in this position? Where were you two months ago? Come back in two more? Is he willing to travel?

Beats me.

And, it just occurred to me, it gets worse.

Because come Pesach time, all the eligible bachelors born and bred in this area of the USA are going to be heading home for the holiday. All the  shadchanim within 2.5 hours of my new town will be ringing my cellphone to set me up with them… and I’ll be in New York.

Probably dateless.

C’est la vie.

SAT Question: Shadchanim Help More People Get Engaged Faster

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.

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.

Singles (the Bills & the People)

I would like to bring your attention to a promising new shidduch writer. She’s in Hamodia, but don’t let that give you pause. This is no long-married woman complaining because her daughter is 24 and single. It’s a sharp-tongued woman, recently married at 34, who knows how to make her point on the thin line of civil indignation between anger and apology. The name of the column is “Single as a Dollar Bill” and she (DB) has some great stories. This week she mentioned the shadchan who had her play car service driver so the shadchan could use the trip from Long Island to Brooklyn to get to know her.

That wasn’t the star tale, though. The really good discussion starter was the one about the time she submitted her photo and profile to a shadchan and then arrived for an interview to find the woman sobbing at her dining room table. DB was a little taken aback, naturally. But it only got worse when the shadchan explained why she was so upset.

She had just finished an interview with one of her “Best Bochurim.” BB was a guy with alle gutte ma’alos: the looks, the yichus, the star rating in his yeshiva, brains, blah blah. And after sifting through all the photos in the shadchan’s files he’d complained, “Why don’t you get any pretty girls?”

“I don’t know why I don’t!” wailed the shadchan to our heroine. Which disturbed DB muchly.

Good4 was reading this aloud to Also4 and myself, and at this point she had to interrupt. “What’s the big deal? He wasn’t insulting her specifically.”

“He still called her ugly, even indirectly,” protested Also4, knight errant (or at least mentch). “And even worse, the shadchan agreed.”

“I’m still trying to figure out why the shadchan is so enamored with this jerk,” I said, poking Good4 to make her keep reading.

It turns out this was column #2, so we had to go back and dig up the back issues to find the first one. This one revolved around the recently married DB being told that singles are bitter because they don’t have a married life “Like you and I do.” Also4 enjoyed it particularly. As a single guy in his late 20s in Israel, he’s subject to plenty of pity, condescension, unwanted favors, and advice. I have a feeling we’re going to have to cut out future articles and mail them to him.

Anyway, as of these two articles I’m a fan. I look forward to more good horror stories and acerbic commentary in the future. You go girl.

The Truth is They’re Out There

I’m talking about the Women in Black.

They warned me about them when I returned from seminary. These women would be watching me at weddings, on the street, at casual events… they’d be taking notes, and if they liked me, they would marry me off. My fate was in their hands.

I didn’t believe in them.

My argument was rudimentary: I didn’t see them, ergo they didn’t exist. None of them ever asked my name from me or any of my friends. I went to weddings, marched the streets, and attended events without once feeling their gaze penetrating the back of my Little Black Suit. So I discounted their existence.

Well I was wrong. They do exist. But I don’t merit their attention. That’s the sad fact.

I know they exist because a younger friend of mine recently entered shidduchim at a belated age. And she can’t seem to get away from the Women in Black. They’re the neighbor in her friend’s living room. They’re the woman who gives her a ride home from a wedding. They split a piece of seven-layer-cake with her at the kiddush.

She tells me with a startled delight about how she just asked this woman for a ride home from a wedding and in the car it turned out the woman was a shadchan and had asked for her information and thought she had a boy for her. She tells me about the woman she met in a living room who makes shidduchim and will certainly be on the lookout for her. She recites a veritable litany of “accidental” meetings with Women in Black. But oh – I know it’s not accident. No: when the Women in Black want to find you, they find you.

It’s depressing.

The only time I ever met a Woman in Black at a wedding was when one asked me the name of one of my friends. I thought it was a fluke. But no, it’s not them. They exist. It’s me. I don’t exist. Not on their radar, anyway. The Women in Black have seen me and they did not care to dwell on what they saw.

Yeah, that’s depressing.

And liberating. The Women in Black aren’t keeping tabs on me! Wahoo! No need for obsequious kowtowing to their standards! Let’s go running down Avenue J with pajama pants sticking out from under our denim skirts!

B4S Sees You On Sinai

I signed up.

I don’t know why.

It all started when a match appeared in my inbox. The email explained that a friend had suggested the guy for me. In order to see his info I needed to set up a basic account and fill out a profile. It was only after I put in all that effort that I discovered that I couldn’t accept or decline the match without a paid membership. Sheesh.

Of course, once I had the basic membership, matches started bonking into my inbox like spam into a Yahoo account. I read them with mild amusement. There was the happy chossid, the guy whose picture showed him in a black t-shirt and sunglasses, and one fellow whose list of his ideal wife was so long and so far superior to me (“chein, temimus, sweet, kind, sparkling”) that I wanted to hit “accept” just because I enjoy a good challenge. My favorite was the guy who looked quite portly in his picture but described himself as slim. Probably I set my tolerance parameters too wide.

I described my experiences to the friend who catalyzed the entire reaction. She was shocked.

“You don’t have a SYAS account?”

As if, at my age and stage, it was requisite. As if I’d admitted to not having a bank account. Trusting my life to friends, relatives, and a plastic pig with a slot in the top.

Well, she might have a point there.

It’s been observed that I need to broaden my circles a bit, so…

I checked the rates and did the math. I shook my head and did it again, and then I multiplied the monthly rate by the 33,000 singles supposed to be using the site. I was immediately overcome with envy for the site founder. Add advertising revenue… someone is sitting on a Caribbean island somewhere sipping Shirley Temples and checking their matches.

I bit the bullet and punched in my credit card number. First thing I went straight to the guy with the demanding shopping list and hit “accept.”

He rejected me.

Oh well. No shocker there.

Next I informed my shadchan that if a guy puts down “TV, weightlifting, and billiards” as his hobbies then he’s not for me.

Then I went to the home page and divided the 1,000 matches made by the 33,000 single members. I got a 3% success rate. Of course, if you consider that each match takes care of 2 members, I guess it’s more like 6%. I wonder if that’s a statistically significant number.

I mean, as far as I can tell from my experience so far, SYAS is the names-on-a-dartboard game on a grand scale. The shadchanim throw suggestions at you, you catch or parry them and wait for the other party to do the same. At some point two people actually like the sound of each other and agree to go out.

I’m still waiting for that one.

For the readership: how often does it happen? Give the rate on a per month basis please.

Oh, and the original suggestion that started it all? I have no idea who he is. He timed out before I forked over the cash.

Cartoon credit to Stupid Inventor

Shadchanim and Suits

It was not so very long ago that I made fun of young women who visited shadchanim while ostensibly unwinding from the stresses of life. Thus, it is with deep embarrassment that I confess to… <Blush/>

To visiting… <Deep blush/>

On vaca… <Covers face/>

But I can justify it! I mean, I never go anywhere near that Town. It was a once-in-three-years opportunity! I know it’s against the rules of vacation, but it would have been foolish not to!

Methinks I doth protest too much.

Good4 says I must be getting desperate, but I would have phrased it differently. Perhaps that I have a heightened desire to close the single chapter of my life or an intensified awareness of the drawbacks of being unpaired at this stage of my life, or… Whatever.

To my own credit, I would like to point out that it was not part of the original vacation plans. I only thought of it while in the car driving away from NYC. Which spawned a problem of its own, immediately grasped by my ever-perspicacious mother, who asked, when I related the tale, “What did you wear?”

An excellent question – one that I pondered throughout the week of vacation. When you’ve packed a small carry-on full of t-shirts and long black skirts, what do you wear to visit a shadchan?

People make fun of women who pack fat suitcases full of clothes and shoes for every occasion, but it really isn’t a laughing matter. You simply don’t know what situation will arise, and invariably it will require clothing you didn’t pack.

A woman can never pack too many pairs of shoes.

I was contemplating that truism while surveying in dismay the three pairs I’d brought along. The hiking boots, the water shoes, and the sneakers.

Granted, the sneakers weren’t too bad. They were my LBS – Little Black Sneakers, the preferred footwear alternative for women who wear black socks. They would have to do. I hoped the shadchan wouldn’t notice.

The skirts – well, a long black skirt is respectable, isn’t it? It’s not like I even own any slinky skirts or pre-worn denim or anything. And as for shirts – well, thank goodness there was a sky-blue polo among the sweats-gray and orange t-shirts. Really all I needed was a quick stop in a pharmacy for some mousse (thank goodness I keep hair clips on my knapsack zipper pulls) and I’d be good to go.

Well, good enough to go.

At this point in my narrative my mother and Good4 are silent, positively riveted with – well, some strong emotion. The wonder in my mother’s expression is doubtless admiration for my resourcefulness. Or else uncertainty over whether I’d done myself more good or harm. But none of us had taken into account the view from the other side of the dining room table. That is to say: what does a shadchan wear when cramming a last-minute appointment into her busy evening? Hm… Never thought about that one.

When a nervous young lady, dressed to the nines, is arriving in your house, I guess you can’t really come out to interview her in your housecoat and plush bunny slippers. The pressure runs both ways.

“I’m so glad,” the shadchan confessed to me. “I felt bad about not changing into my sheitel and shoes, but then I see you…” her hand gesture takes in my sneakers and hemline. I murmur my excuses, but they seem unnecessary. She isn’t rudely pointing out my under-dressed state. She is contentedly pointing out the happy coincidence (Good4 would shout “Hashgacha pratis story!” at this point) of our being mutually dressed down on this occasion.

I wonder if, in the future, if  I ever visit another shadchan, I should call ahead and offer a sort of truce: I’ll dress down if you dress down?

I’ll Tell You Why… Or Maybe Not.

In the name of preserving feelings we usually don’t give completely honest reasons for saying no to a further date. The parsimonious phrases we provide the shadchan do not really do justice to our feelings, and often mask more interesting issues than our word choice makes apparent. Some reasons I’ve chosen not to date further:

Not the same wavelength – We just didn’t seem to understand each other. He took my jokes seriously and I didn’t recognize a single one of his cultural references. I don’t need a guy who understands what I mean if I answer “how are you” with “my circadian rhythm needs adjusting.” But I do need a guy who can tell that I’m kidding when I bring up my chulent-flavored popsicle business plan.

No chemistry – I just don’t… I just can’t see… eugh. Just not interested in taking it further, okay?

Not my type – Yes, there are types. We’re not the same type. And I know that opposites attract, so I guess we weren’t opposites either. If types can be arranged in a circle, maybe we’re at 65-degree angles. Or 130 degrees. Some awkward angles that just don’t complement each other. Like trying to connect cheetahs and lions. Yeah they’re both cats, and yeah we’re both nerds, but very different types. Forget it. Not happening.

It just didn’t go well – Read: Boring. Maybe conversation flowed, but I don’t remember it. My eyes were glazing over – wait, was it about his thesis exploring the scientific potential for Star Trek-inspired technology? He’s a nice guy, but not for me. Except at bedtime. Then he’d probably be handy.

Not for me – Meaning, he’s a jerk. If that was his best behavior I’d hate to see him on a bad day. Not amusing, though I’m sure he intended it that way. Or maybe he didn’t. Maybe he quite solemnly ignores his dates, mocks strangers, and torments the busboy as a matter of course. Which is even scarier.

Not for me – He’s wonderful. He knows it. Yuck.

Not what I’m looking for – Listen, a girl has some needs in a marriage. I don’t want a guy I can walk all over. I don’t think it would be good for either of us. And I don’t want a guy who is too much like me – I think one of us is more than enough in a couple. And not somebody who I can’t respect – yeah, sorry, but I thought that other one was a waste of space. A charming waste of space, but a waste nonetheless. He should offer to pay for his oxygen. Maybe this is all very vague, but I can tell that this guy is just not going to work long term. But thanks for thinking of me.

I just don’t see it – What the heck were you thinking?!?!?

Glossary

A glossary of terms occasionally used on this blog, for the new or rusty, or those who simply don’t have minds that operate exactly like mine:

1DD – The One Date Dump. This differs from “One n’ Done” in that OnD is a type of very brief dating sequence, whereas 1DD is a maneuver pulled by one of the parties in a OnD.

Also4 – older brother, still dating.

Bad4 Shidduchim – that’s me. Bad4 is the first name, Shidduchim is the last name. Not to be confused with BadforShidduchim, the blog.

Best4 – this is my biggest brother. He’s Best4 because he was snapped up by the first woman who went out with him, and also because he decided he wanted to be called that. Most notable accomplishment: producing the finest kinfauna any aunt could want.

BNB – bayis ne’eman biyisroel

Done4 – this older sister is finally done for in the shidduch arena. Having a husband will do that to you.

FDO – First Date Outfit. This is a standard set of clothing carefully chosen as nicest or most versatile. It is worn on every single first date with very few exception. This makes first dates easier and less worrisome.

Good4 – younger sister, just back from seminary and starting to date.

IT – in town. This covers the greater New York City area, as well as certain areas nearby in the tri-state area that are indistinguishable from the New York orthodox community. It doesn’t matter if you’re from a different city and in a different city – you’re still out of town because you’re out of New York.

Kinfauna – One inclusive word for nieces and nephews. There has been contention that someone’s already suggested “niflings,” but I’ll wait til Noah Webster weighs in before I give up.

LBS – Little Black Sneakers. These versatile items of footwear are used by orthodox women who want to wear something comfortable but that will also not clash too much with their somewhat dressier (non-denim) skirt and black socks.

MF – An NMF who’s been married for 12 months or has had her first child.

Minor-league BT – someone who was always religious but has shifted to the right of his/her family and upbringing.

MMRC – The Miserably Married Revenge Club. You know who the members are unless you’re a member.

Mr. and Mrs. Shidduchim – those are the parental units for this blog. Poor things.

NEF – Newly Engaged Friend. ‘Nuff said. Okay, maybe not. NEFs are open targets for all types of teasing and good-natured abuse, the theory being that they’re too happy and self-absorbed to notice.

NMF – Newly Married Friend. This title lasts until shana rishona is over. These are the people you can’t visit, can’t call, can’t  get together with for the life of you because they’re so busy  being newly married and anxious about their spouse.

OOT – out of town. You know where that is. It’s anyplace that’s not here.

OnD – One n’ Done. You go out once. ‘Nuff said.

POS – pathetic older single. An ambiguous term without defined usage. Possibly community dependent.

S7D – Standard Seven Date Sequence. This is reference to the ultra-orthodox, non-chassidish practice of going on approximately 7 or so dates before engagement. Sometimes more, sometimes less. This isn’t a hard and fast rule. Just a convenient way of generalizing.

Sconcer – to look over someone’s shoulder while you’re speaking to them, so you can scan the room for more interesting people to talk to.

Smearcat – a cat that’s been… well, roadkilled.

Women in Black – You know how you have to be “seen”? And how you have to be careful how you act and dress because of who might “see” you? Who are you anxious about? The Women in Black. These women, who wear black suits to weddings, have their eagle eyes on you from the second you come back from Israel until you walk down the aisle. After that they’re keeping an eye on your stomach. (Applies to females only, though I’ve noticed the male waistline tends to grow after marriage as well.)

No Escape

Here I am, vacationing in Miami, resting up before the marathon, hanging on the beach, building a sandcastle. Two other runners are all the way out (it’s awfully shallow for a long way, ‘round here) looking like they’re having fun. I wave and go join them. I paddle up, tasting sea salt for the first time in… oh gosh, loads of years. We float on our backs, exchanging vital stats: who are you, where are you from, what do you do, how far are you running, have you done this before?

When I finish answering their questions, runner A turns to runner B and says, “I’m thinking David, what do you think?”

Add “150 feet into the Atlantic” to the list of strange places I’ve been asked about shidduchim.
Can’t a girl ever get away from it all?

An Out of Mold Experience

My friend – let’s call her Shira – went to an out of town wedding. Since she is an ‘aging single,‘ (read: going on 24) her mother arranged for her to meet a garrison of shadchanim at the wedding. (Because what young lady can travel strictly for pleasure these days?)

So there they are, standing in the corner of the room, music blaring, people in black are dancing, waiters refilling the diet coke… and a jury of shadchanim is interrogating Shira.

“So what are you looking for?”

Argh. She begins describing the guy she thinks would fit her. He would have to be a a chareidi black hatter (apologies to the EndTheMadness readers: meaning he follows the Mishna Berura, has a rav, and attempts to conform to the norms to a certain extent), but not a full-time learner. She knew her lifestyle was too expensive for kollel.

Now, Shira is an aidle bais yaakov maidle. She attended a bais yaakov all her life, went to seminary like any good little girl, and lives in Flatbush. Like all such ‘fine’ young ladies, her father has always worked, but hopes his sons will learn. But while Shira can accept that a ‘lifetime learner’ is a wonderful and desirable trait in a husband, she is fully aware that she as and individual is not cut out for it.

Right.

Back to the wedding hall.

Shira howls over the music that she wants a chareidi black hatter who is capable of getting a job.

“So you want a learner,” shadchan #1 says.

“A lifetime learner or a ‘ten years and then become a rebbe’ learner?” shadchan #2 asks.

“Well of course he should learn his whole life, but he has to w*rk too,” Shira explains loudly.

“So you want a dayan or a rabbi who is in kollel now,” shadchan #3 understands.

“No! I mean, no kollel for me,” Shira shouts.

“Five years and then w*rking in Torah,” shadchan #1 says, in a moment of revelation.

“That’s not what – ” Shira protests.

“Give me a copy of your resume,” requests #2.

“Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” says #3 pleasantly.

And with that, the interview closed. Shira removed her powder-blue-suit-clad self to the street for some air and convinced herself not to scream.

Must we all fit a jelly mold for the sake of shidduchim?

Shadchanim

I haven’t yet been to a shadchan. I’ve heard too much about them from friends. About calling and calling back, leaving messages, leaving more messages, scheduling appointments, and having them cancelled. Repeatedly. About showing up to an interview and after a long talk hearing, “I don’t know anyone in your age range” or “I have too many girls and not enough boys” or simply, “Well I’ll put you down, but I doubt I can help you.” About having to call back again and again to remind them that you exist, that you’re still single, that you’re hoping they’ve found someone who might match you.

It is beyond me why any self-respecting would put herself through that. Hashem created us too, even if we’re “girls” and a dime a dozen. We deserve to be treated with dignity. Shadchanim: if you can’t respect your customers, get out of the business.

But no—they can’t get out of the business! We need them. Isn’t the “Shidduch crisis” caused by a dearth of people willing to set up other people? Who cares if they treat us like dirt? If it gets us married in the end, we’ll take it.

That’s the earnest answer I’ve heard from so many friends. It makes me sick. Are we that desperate?

“…I told my boss I wasn’t coming in to work that day. I canceled a doctor’s appointment. I was in my car, about to make the hour-and-a-half drive to the shadchan when she called and rescheduled for next week. I had to show up to work and reschedule my appointment. I was annoyed, let me tell you. And she did that more than once. But she found me my husband! There are some things you just have to do, you know? Dealing with shadchanim is one of them. It’s a pain, but that’s life.”

I know, I know. Intellectually, I know. But emotionally, I just can’t handle it. I had one run-in with a shadchan that I remember. My parents had spoken to her over the phone several times, and she was very vague and non-committal. She didn’t even ask for any information—they had to shove it at her. Finally they suggested a face-to-face appointment, to which she agreed. We discussed timing, and she said how about Sunday morning, at 9:15 am? I agreed and hung up. Then I noticed that Sunday was erev Yom Kippur. Who on earth would make an appointment for 9:15 the morning before Yom Kippur?

Her “shadchan” hours were between 8 am and 10:30 am, so I decided to call the morning of the appointment before going, to ascertain that all was in order.Well, I called and called, and she didn’t pick up. Duh—it was erev Yom Kippur. She was probably busy preparing two seudos and shlagging kaparos. No time for shidduch hours. I had done my hair, dressed up, even put on a dab of makeup, and I sat there on my bed, ringing phone in hand, frustrated, shamed, and angry. She’d chosen the time—hadn’t she realized it was erev Yom Kippur? Couldn’t she have called to reschedule it when she did realize? Did she even make a note of the appointment at all, or was she expecting to be reminded when I showed up on her doorstep, all dressed up?

I could imagine the scene if I would. Her daughter would open the door and ask who I was. I’d give my name and she’d look at me blankly. I’d explain my purpose and her eyes would go wide. She’d tell me to wait here and go running into the house, “Mooommy! Someone’s here for you for a shidduch!” The shadchan would come out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel, looking annoyed. “What’s your name? Oh yes… I didn’t realize the date when I gave you the time. Let me just get your information down really quickly so you didn’t come out here for nothing.” Then she’d ask a few sketchy and unhelpful questions, and I’d be out on her doorstep.

I left a cold message thanking her for confirming her appointment for erev Yom Kippur and asking that she please call me back about a rain check. She never did. And despite my parents’ urging, I refused to call her either. I didn’t see how or why I could trust someone like that to ret me a shidduch.

“What’s traumatized you so much?” my father marvels at me when I refuse to visit a shadchan over vacation.

“It must have been the shadchan who insisted on meeting her at a distant family friend’s vort, and when she showed up, the woman just said ‘Hello, so nice to meet you,’ and refused to even take her ‘shidduch resume’,” my mother suggests.

I hadn’t even remembered that horrible incident. Suppression defense mechanism, doubtless.

“Oh, I thought it was the woman I made her go talk to, who after a half hour of grilling said that she didn’t actually know any boys, and recommended visiting a different shadchan,” my father says.

I’d forgotten that one too, but never underestimate unconscious motivation.

My parents claim I’m being too vulnerable. If I had a healthy sense of self, I wouldn’t mind being treated like a lower order of life, because I’d know that I wasn’t one. Other girls manage it, right?

Not really. Other girls shut down their feelings in the name of a higher goal—getting married. Maybe I can’t shut down my feelings. Or maybe I’m just not desperate enough to get married.

I have an excellent sense of self: I think I’m wonderful. And I think a wonderful person like me deserves to be treated like a wonderful person. Not like a doormat. Not like a second-class citizen. And not like a beggar.