Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Shidduchim Revisited

I hadn't written a posting about shidduchim in quite some time,and now suddenly three in the space of a few weeks. Apparently shidduchim have been hiding out in my mind and are now clamoring for attention. Today shidduchim came front and center.

Someone with whom I used to redt shidduchim in the past called me in a bit of a panic. One of her shidduchim was disintegrating and the two mothers were being impossible. Since I knew one of the mothers would I help her out and speak to the mother. In retrospect, I'd rather have faced a root canal then the conversation I had.

After 7 dates the young couple in question decided to call it quits. They had their reasons, although nothing disastrous. This just wasn't a shidduch. Neither mother was willing to leave it at that. How could a couple have gone out for seven times and first be discovering that this isn't a shidduch??!!! By now they should have been planning their l'chaim. Both moms were gunning for the shadchan; it had to be something she did or didn't do that she should have that was temporarily sidetracking the couple. That was where I first got puzzled. "You mean the shadchan was still involved on the seventh date?" I asked. And then I got the answer that reminded me of why I don't actively redt shidduchim anymore. The mom's voice was incredulous. "Of course the shadchan is still involved! You think that kids this young should just be left alone to have to make important decisions like this?! They need someone with experience guiding them. Es past nit that they should be the ones to ask the delicate questions or to put themselves into situations that could get awkward if they don't know what the right answer should be."

Perhaps the strangest part to me (yes, even stranger than the mom's answer) is that I knew this mom when we were both single, many moons ago. We were both at Queens College at the same time. I know for a fact, and so do a whole lot of others, that this mom met her husband when he came over to speak to someone he knew at a table in the cafeteria and she was sitting there. I know for a fact that they spent a whole lot more then the time of seven dates today talking in that cafeteria. I know for a fact that her parents didn't even meet her husband until after they had gone out three or four times from school. I know for a fact that her first formal date with her husband took place the second week of the Spring semester and that they first got engaged in June, and married after Sukkos.(I was one of her bridesmaids--we all knew these things.)

Now granted, times have changed just a bit, and lots of people have gone more to the right frumkeit-wise. But just where did a whole lot of parents store their brains while they were moving right? I asked this mom if she had discussed the situation with her own mom. She gave a frustrated groan. "She just doesn't understand how things work today!" Honestly? I'd had enough and was getting nowhere at the speed of light. "Oh, I think she understands okay. She let you decide on who you wanted/needed to marry and treated you like an adult. She didn't push you or prod you or make you spit back every word you and _____ said to each other. She wasn't living vicariously through your dating." And then I issued the challenge: "Since it doesn't seem to be working out the way you're going about shidduch making for your child this way, why not try it the way it used to be?"

I believe her last words to me were something about my being stuck in a time warp and living in a past that's over.

Bad4Shidduchim once made a comment here that she doesn't believe in the "good old days" and that they weren't all that good. Sorry Bad4, but of the two of us, only I was living then and still am living now. And on this you will just have to trust me: good and bad are relative terms. But any way you look at it, making a shidduch in the "olden" days was a lot more normal, a lot more sensible and a lot less agonizing then the case is today. A whole lot more of the shidduchim made back then are alive and well today than are the more recent marriages. And so yes, I'm sticking to my guns: shidduch making was a whole lot better in the good old days. This is one case where going backwards in time might actually take us forward.

15 comments:

JS said...

Can you describe more about what shidduch making was like "back then" or refer to another post? The mother in question here obviously didn't meet her husband through a shidduch. He, GASP!, actually went up to her and introduced himself!

So much of frumkeit nowadays is just a joke. A show for everyone else where everyone hopes no one else figures out they're just acting. Worst part is, the longer people act the part, the more they start believing it.

What's so sad, is that this mother is probably horribly embarrassed by her past and the way she met her husband. She's probably scared stiff that a future shidduch for her children will ask her how she met her husband.

Why is it so terrible for boys and girls to speak once they're of marriable age (as a MO person, I think they should talk at all ages, but that's a separate issue)? Why can't they socialize or have Shabbat meals together? Why can't they be trusted to behave like a frum adult - or even a responsible adult? Why is it so terrible for people to date for a while and get to know each other?

What is with the big hurry in frumkeit? You must meet someone quickly. Once you meet, you must date them quickly. Once you date, you must get engaged quickly. Once engaged, you must get married quickly. And of course, once you're married, you must have kids quickly.

It's almost like we still think life expectancy is 45.

Anonymous said...

JS: I think several things might lead to the hurry. First, on quick dating and marriage (like the strict separation of the genders) is the fear that if a young man and woman spend too much time together, hormones will take over and there will be touching, or worse . . . The rush to date, marry and have children quickly makes it easier to have 12 children. The younger you start, the more you can have, although a large family is certainly possible starting at 25 or 26. I also think that marrying and having children young helps keep people in a particular community. One may be less likely to explore other ideas, philosophies and lifestyles once there is a spouse and children.

jb said...

it's one thing if you grew up in a chasidic community where you, your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents etc were expected to come to a decision after 2 or 3 meetings. it's a whole different ballgame for those who don't live in such an enclosed community. you know the type- went to an mo high school (which may or may not have been co-ed), followed by a year or two in israel. then they want to do shidduchim the chassidish way. while i think the way many mo's date is a bad idea, so is going to the other extreme, if that's not how you grew up.

i am bad4's age, and i did it the 'old' way (sort of)- i met my husband early on in my shana aleph and his shana bet (just after sukkos) when i got lost in yerushalyim and he (having been there a year already) kindly helped me out, after which he promptly asked me on a date. we got engaged 6 months later while we were home for pesach, and until then we had been seeing each other about 3-4 times a week. we got married that summer, after returning from israel. we never violated negiah or yichud all that time, so no one can use that as an excuse.

i was the first of my group of friends to marry; quite a few others have gotten engaged and married since then, and guess what: about 80% of my friends who got engaged after less than 3 months either ended up breaking the engagement, or going ahead despite their doubts and getting divorced within the first year. my husband's little brother is in the parsha now, and after a dozen girls, he has yet to get past date 5. why? because he refuses to get engaged in less than 5-6 months, while the girls expect imminent engagement in 5-6 dates. when they don't see it coming, they break it off.

my husband and i are what you would call "chareidi-lite" and live in that kind of community, and although we are way too young to be worrying about our kids' shidduchim we sometimes worry about how we're gonna tell them about how we met, and we worry about having to go through a system that we don't really like all that much, and that we thank god every day that we didn't have to use.

Ilan said...

"The mom's voice was incredulous. "Of course the shadchan is still involved! You think that kids this young should just be left alone to have to make important decisions like this?! They need someone with experience guiding them. Es past nit that they should be the ones to ask the delicate questions or to put themselves into situations that could get awkward if they don't know what the right answer should be.""

It is unbelievable that these parents think that their "children" are too simple-minded and immature to find their own mate, yet at the same time they're ready for the HUGE step of actually getting married and setting up a home with someone? Could you please explain that one to me, ProfK?

I think JS summed up the whole sorry state of dating in the frum world with this sentence:

"Why can't they be trusted to behave like a frum adult - or even a responsible adult?"

Yes, why not? Why the hell not? Why is everyone so worried that there might be some touching, kissing, etc. that they feel they must micromanage and set up myriad ridiculous rules for the dating process? I'm MO, and don't think pre-marital touching is bad. But I understand that others do. OK, fine. But why not trust your ADULT children just a little behave the right way? And if they choose not to, isn't that THEIR business?

Ezzie said...

"Of course the shadchan is still involved! You think that kids this young should just be left alone to have to make important decisions like this?! They need someone with experience guiding them. Es past nit that they should be the ones to ask the delicate questions or to put themselves into situations that could get awkward if they don't know what the right answer should be."

Is that for real!?

G6 said...

The scariest line in the whole post?
" or to put themselves into situations that could get awkward if they don't know what the right answer should be."
What the right answer should be?!?!?!?!!
Tell me I'm dreaming!
I recently married off two children myself and I always told them that you don't want somebody who doesn't want you for WHO YOU ARE, b/c otherwise you will be stuck for the rest of your life being someone you AREN'T!

BrooklynWolf said...

"Of course the shadchan is still involved! You think that kids this young should just be left alone to have to make important decisions like this?! They need someone with experience guiding them. Es past nit that they should be the ones to ask the delicate questions or to put themselves into situations that could get awkward if they don't know what the right answer should be."

Wow! I am completely blown away by this quote. There are so many things wrong with it that I don't know where to begin. I'm just speechless on this one.

The Wolf

Beth said...

After high school I applied to a college in NY. My mom's family lives there and they insisted that I don't stay in a dorm but live with one of my aunts instead. Biggest mistake ever made. Mom's family is way to the right of us although we didn't really know just how much to the right.. They were already pushing me to find a husband but first I had a cousin already in shidduchim so I got a breather of a few months.

I watched this cousin date and I swore no one was ever going to do this to me. Before every date there was a conference of what questions to ask and what not to talk about. After the date my aunt and her sister and her sister in law grilled my cousin over everything that went on. They had to know everything that she said and that he said. And the shadchan was right in the middle too. I asked my cousin if this wasn't getting on her nerves and she said no. It showed that her family cared. And yes she also said that her parents had more knowledge then she did so they would know how to see things that she didn't. She went out, got engaged and got married all in 13 weeks and then headed to Israel with someone who was still a total stranger to her.

Then they started up on me and I refused to even discuss a shidduch. The pressure got so bad that I told my parents that either I had to live in a dorm or get an apartment with roommates or I'd have to leave and find another school.

I ended up moving into an apartment with 3 roommates and my NY aunts talked as if I had gone totally off the derech. And my cousin? She ended up back at home 5 months after the wedding. Even with all the stupid questions my aunt was asking they never figured out that the choson wasn't just a stranger but was really strange in a lot of ways.

How did I meet my husband? My roommate was supposed to go out with him and got a sudden horrible stomache virus and couldn't go. She asked me to go down to the lobby and explain things to the boy. Somehow we got talking and I ended up going out with him instead. Slightly over a year from when I met him to when we got married because he was first finishing his grad studies then. My aunts thought my parents were crazy to let us wait. That's okay because we think they are crazy for not waiting.

badforshidduchim said...

I'm always hearing people talk about how back then people just met. Even my parents talk about them good ol' days. But my parents met via a shadchan, so did my grandparents, and so did most of the people I ask, including the ones who talk about those good ol' days when people just met.

I'd love to hear more about them.

SephardiLady said...

Funny, marriage can be "awkward."

Anonymous said...

BFS - I'm always hearing people talk about how back then people just met. Even my parents talk about them good ol' days. But my parents met via a shadchan, so did my grandparents, and so did most of the people I ask, including the ones who talk about those good ol' days when people just met.

Of course they all used shadchanim, if they said anything else, it would be "bad for shidduchim" for their kids and grandkids!!!!

But anonymously, it's a different story:-) My parents met without a shadchan. My grandparents met (and re-met after the war) without a shadchan. My great grandparents met without a shadchan. And, guess what? many in my family are now Charedim!

Mark

ProfK said...

JS and bad4,
Ask and yee shall receive. I'll be posting on what dating was like in the olden days. But let me say this in advance of the post. If we are talking European grandparents then of course they met through a shadchan--that was the style then. And if you say parents met through a shadchan, define shadchan please. Someone who practiced shadchanus as a profession and took money for it? Or a stranger who had heard of the two people via the grapevine and suggested a fix up? Such dates existed in the olden days but the term used was not "shidduch date" but "blind date." A blind date was where you had never laid eyes on the other person but he/she was suggested as "perfect" for you by your mother's brother's sister in law's son in law's muchatanista's next door neighbor's boss's wife. If that counts as a shadchan, given how we define the term today, then I, too, got married through a "shadchan."

In case you missed the story two years ago, my across the street neighbor was away for the summer and gave over her house to her cousin for the summer. Said cousin might have seen me leaving my house but had actually never spoken to me. Neighbor went to be m'vaker cholim on my future husband's father. While there she spotted my husband, whom she also didn't know personally and probably would not recognize if she passed him in the street. She told my future in laws that she had a girl for their son. She came home, asked my parents for my name, asked for our phone number and passed it along to my future husband's father who gave it over to my husband. He wasn't happy that his parents had committed him to a date with someone nobody had ever seen and who lived in the wilds of Far Rockaway yet. I was in Israel while all this was happening and first found out when I got back. I was none too happy either since there was a debate as to how old and how tall this boy was supposed to be and nobody knew anything more than he came from a heimishe family. But hey, what was one more blind date in the scheme of things. After that first date neither of us ever heard from, saw or had contact with our "shadchan," which was also par for the course. And just by the way, she got the two pieces of information she did supposedly know wrong. If that is what you mean bad4 by your parents and every one else you know used a shadchan then let's be honest and admit that such a scenario has very little to do with today's institutionalized and rule-bound method of shidduch making.

Anonymous said...

My grandparents shadchan story was that my grandfather was walking with the shadchan, he saw my grandmother and said I want to meet that girl, but she was poor so the shadchan protested my grandfather stood his ground, they were introduced and hit it off and married. So he too was set up by a shadchan... but that was the good old days when a shadchan was more of a blind date arranger not the way it is now.

Anonymous said...

PS (I am anon 7:29pm) this was in Hungary 1920's

Dina said...

My parents met through friends at school, dated and got married. But by the time us kids were ready for shidduchim they buckled under and followed the crazy rules around today. I couldn't take it that so many people were all so busy in my business. So there I was 25 and not married and everybody was making it seem like I was never going to get married.

When my bubbi in Miami wasn't feeling well I flew down to take care of her. I was actually running away from home and all the pressure. And yeah, you know how the story is going to end. Another grandmother down in my bubbi's complex had her grandson for a visit. We were the only two younger people down there, spent a lot of time together and with nobody else mixing in, we discovered we liked each other. And we still liked each other when we both got back to New York.

Finding my husband was great but even better was that my parents started relaxing with my younger sister and brother and with the pressure off they also found the right people to marry.