Monday, December 8, 2008

Ready, get set, go!

What does it mean when we say someone is ready for marriage? Yes, I'm being serious. When I apply "ready" to other activities, I have specific guidelines that tell me what "ready" means. The guidelines for readiness for marriage are far more nebulous.

I have a cake in the oven. How can I tell when it's ready? First, the recipe tells me at what temperature and for how long to bake the cake. But since every oven is not identical and there may be temperature variations which can cause baking time variations, the recipe goes further. It tells me that the cake is ready when the top is golden brown, when the top is firm to the touch and when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry and clean. And, of course, different cakes have different recipes and different indications of readiness.

In other cases where I apply "ready"--taking a test, leaving on a vacation etc.--I have a checklist of preparations that must all be completed before I can say I am ready.

So I ask in all seriousness, how do we know when someone is ready for marriage? What toothpick test is there for marriage readiness? What preparations must be completed before one is ready for marriage? How long do singles have to "bake" before they are ready?

It seems that some parts of frum Klal have settled on a "one size fits all" approach to marriage readiness. They've developed a general recipe for baking all cakes. They've settled on one temperature and one baking time and have decreed that the "readiness" factor for every variety of cake. So just maybe a chocolate cake with 1/2 cup of cocoa in it might bake well under their recipe, but what do you do when you have bananas or apples and no cocoa? What if you've got less sugar but more flour available? Doesn't seem to matter--all cakes must come out of the oven at the same time. So some cakes, which might have been perfectly edible, delectable even, had they been left to bake longer or at a different temperature, come out in varying stages of readiness. Some look fine but leave a bad taste in the mouth when sampled. Some are raw or doughy. Some are dry and unpalatable. Some are only half baked. Some are missing ingredients or have too much of one ingredient and not enough of another. Some of those cakes leave the eater feeling slightly queasy. Some cause outright gastric distress.

So all single girls are ready to get married when they are 18 or 19? And all single boys when they are 20 or 21? Not likely. Is it the ability to beget a child or carry a child that makes you ready for marriage? If that were so we could save ourselves a bundle on bas and bar mitzvahs; we'd be putting up chupahs instead for 12 and 13 year olds. Is it having an interest in the opposite sex that signals readiness? See the previous comment on bas and bar mitzvahs. Is it being fiscally responsible that signals readiness for marriage? Not all by itself. Is it that hard- to-pin-down maturity that signals readiness? Is it wanting to get married that itself signals readiness to do so?

So, before we decree, as many have done, that age equals readiness for marriage, maybe we need to look at that recipe and ask ourselves what really needs to be there for someone to be declared ready for marriage.


Anonymous said...

My husband got stuck having to meet and greet my daughter's date yesterday. He figured that asking what the boy is majoring in in college was a safe topic. The boy said finance, whatever that is. My husband asked if that was a major that would bring in a good parnoseh. And then the boy said that he wasn't really worried because parnoseh was a long time down the road. He had serious learning to do first. As far as we are concerned this boy was not ready to be seeing our daughter if marriage was what he was after. Our recipe includes a husband's supporting his family.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a thoughtful, insightful post. When my friends were getting married at 19, 20, 21, I most definitely was not "ready," whatever that means. I had so much of my own growing to do (and one of my dearest friends who met me when I started college observed how much I had changed upon my graduation 4 years later). By age 23, if I had met the right person, I could have seen myself married within a few years. That didn't happen. At age 30, I can see how much my life has changed and how I have changed with it. Sure, if I'd been married that life would have taken different paths, but I'm grateful for the experiences I had and the lasting friendships I was able to make because I had a flexibility with my life that would not have been possible if I'd been married.

That said, I am definitely "ready" to be married. How do I quantify, or even qualify, what means? I can't. It's a feeling that I have. Hopefully, I will meet my match soon, but even if I don't, I am going to take every experience I have and savor it. I will think about how much I have to be grateful for, because a happy life does not hang on being married. And I will take all of those experiences and bring them into a marriage when the time is right. Some things just cannot be rushed, and what is right for one is not right for another, as you metaphorically outlined with your cake scenario.

Anonymous said...

You're fond of sayings so how about that old one that a watched pot never boils. Maybe if less people kept asking singles why they aren't ready for marriage yet they would have more time to get ready? If one more well meaning relative or friend asks what my youngest is waiting for I'm not going to be responsible for my actions.

Looking Forward said...

I just commented this to someone. its fairly on topic.

boys are only alowed to have companionship if they can earn a good living. . . :(

at is so wrong with being lonely? why is it that only people who don't have any need for companionship are the ones alowed to have it? what is so wrong with having needs? why does everyone act like if you feel lonely then nothing will help it until you stop feeling lonely?

and what about those who want companionship super early? 15, 16, 17, 18? the ones who look out the window wistfuly and simply feel lonely even then? what about them?

what about baking the cake too long?

Orthonomics said...

Don't joke about Bar/Bat Mivtzvah kids getting married. I've heard numerous Rabbis "reminiscent" about the medivel times when people married when they were physically ready. Of course, the fact that boys younger than 13 were already in the workplace doesn't make it into the same sentence.

(Sorry if I sound cynical today).

Orthonomics said...

I should say both Rabbis and lay people.

BTW-I'm sure you are aware that there is a push for younger marriage.

Bas~Melech said...

My vote is with the "hard-to-pin-down maturity" thing. I think the most important qualifying criteria for marriage is the ability to make the relationship work. When I was 18 and my friends were starting to go, I thought long and hard and consulted with my mentors about what qualities are most important for making a marriage work. I realized that I still needed work on some of the biggies, so I waited a few years. Now I feel "ready" because I'm pretty sure that I could weather life as one of a couple.

This tops parnassah because no matter what a person's plans are for making money, that is not ultimately in their hands. The question is if the money didn't surface as planned, would they be able to cope, adapt, change course, and still have a loving relationship?

Anonymous said...

My husband asked if that was a major that would bring in a good parnoseh. And then the boy said that he wasn't really worried because parnoseh was a long time down the road.

I wonder if the boy said that because he really means it or because that's what he thought your husband wanted to hear? Maybe he thought that your family wants someone who plans on learning full-time for a few years before earning a parnassah.

the medieval times when people married when they were physically ready

Other reasons besides men (and women) working already at that age was the shorter lifespans at the time. If you live to 80, you marry at 20-25, but if you live till 55-60, you marry at 14-16.


Anonymous said...

no matter what a person's plans are for making money, that is not ultimately in their hands. The question is if the money didn't surface as planned, would they be able to cope, adapt, change course, and still have a loving relationship?

Yes and no. God is the source of all parnasah, but whether that parnasah arrives because you're a lawyer earning six figures or a teacher earning $35K is up to decisions you make in life such as education and hard work.

Note: I'm not denigrating teachers as being uneducated or not working hard, the point was just to compare two jobs with different salaries and point out that wach person makes the choice of what career they choose and how hard they work in that career.

Personally, I'm sick of people having the attitude that all is from God as if our personal choices make no difference.

Lion of Zion said...


how did your daughter get set up with this guy to begin with?


on a different aspect of getting married, i saw an adv in the jewish press this week for
it includes financial counseling for newlyweds

Orthonomics said...

I know I'm very old fashioned and I don't like to reign in on the party. But it seems to me that having a job and being on a career path is a decent sign of maturity. When you are employed, you are not free to do whatever you feel like. You have obligations that extend beyond the self. You have responsibilities and deadlines, and other people to please.

Heck. . . . sounds a lot like marrige and parenting.

Lion of Zion said...

see the article in today's jpost by chananiah weisman on shiduch resumes

mlevin said...

ProfK - There are different maturity indicators for both men and women. (I specifically not using girls and boys).

Women are mature when they can handle household responsibilities and can also put her own needs to the side to care for others. Afterall, very soon after marriage she will be pregnant and will have to place baby's needs before her own. She would have to curtail her eating habbits and other activities. Her body will not be comfortable and she would have to make sure to bare it without taking it out on others or shutting herself off from outside world.

Men are ready when they can hold the same job for at least a year. Anyone can get a job, but sticking to it is hard, especially when there are sunny days, or freezing days, or sick days, or friends are free having fun days. Many boys end up skipping work on these days, and then they get fired. Once married with a very pregnant wife he can't just slack off.

ProfK - please start another post about parents being ready to see their children married. I'm not. I do not want to share my daughter with another family and another guy. I do not want to see her for only some Shabboses. And I really hate phone convos. It really scares me everytime she goes on second, third... date. Yes, I'm happy for her, and am looking forward to eventual Simchah, but I'm really dredging it, too.