Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Demise of the 3 X 5 Card

I still occasionally get calls from people who are looking for shidduchim. Mostly I pass along to them the phone number of the head of our local shidduch group. Truth to tell there are still a few active members of that group, but a whole lot of the women, such as myself, have opted out of the organizational route. Why? I think it can be best summed up in a few simple numbers: 3 and 5.

Back in those "dark ages," as many like to call the time period when I was actively redting shidduchim, my shidduch files were highly portable and immediately accessible when I got a call. They all fit comfortably into 3 small boxes that held 3x5 cards in alphabetical order. A lot of us used the same method.

What was on those cards? Name, phone number, home community, age and birth date, height, schools attended, shul attending. In some cases we got the parents' names, the names of siblings and if the siblings were married. Sometimes we knew who the siblings were married to and sometimes not. We'd jot down what profession the person was already in or which one they were studying for. On occasion the front of the card would also hold the name and phone number of the shul rabbi or ONE other person who might have more information on the person--a lot of times we didn't have this information. We would also jot down, in single words, a few notes about the person's interests/hobbies. And we might make a note to ourselves about personality, either because the person mentioned it or based on our conversation with the person. The back of the card was reserved for the names of the people we thought would be shayich for this person and/or the names of the people we had set them up with. Everything we needed to redt a shidduch on the front of one 3x5 card--Zeh hu.

No questionnaires, no resumes, no interrogations and investigations worthy of the CIA. No waiting weeks and months either. Over the course of many years I set up hundreds and hundreds of dates. No, all those dates did not result in a shidduch being made. They did result in a lot of people going out, meeting people they might not have met otherwise, and finding out what was really out there as far as marriage goes. And yes, in many, many cases the two people I set up would not be interested in each other once they had met, but would have suggestions as to other people who might fit them. For the most part people were polite when they called and appreciative that a stranger was willing to take time to help them find their soul mate. When I called with a recommendation the acceptance was either immediate or was settled within a few short days.

And for the record, this resulted in 22 shidduchim made directly by me and 9 that I was a part of along with others.

So what changed? Just about everything. When the word shadchan began being spit out with venom by those who used a shadchan's services, it was time to get out. When the information on just ONE shidduch began to resemble a multi-volumed encyclopedia, it was time to get out. When it took longer to redt one shidduch then it did to build a multi-family house, it was time to get out. When the information insisted upon embarrassed me to write down, never mind to have to ask someone else, it was time to get out. What finally was the straw that broke the camel's back was when I came to realize that I was doing the dating for the people I was now fixing up--yes, you read that correctly. All that excruciatingly detailed information I was expected to have on anyone I was redting was equivalent to at least two date's worth of conversation on the part of a couple out on a date. And what was worse was that so many of the questions I was expected to know the answers to had nothing, yes NOTHING to do with whether or not a couple was going to find compatibility and real understanding.

Back when I first got married there was a company that decided that plain white milk must be boring to everyone, and it came out with special food dyes for milk products. It was now possible to color coordinate your milk with your china or with the dishes being served. That product didn't get too much by way of public acceptance and faded away rather quickly. That's what happens to products and services that the public looks at, examines and decides is not really necessary or in its best interests. We're perfectly willing to say "This doesn't work" or "This isn't for everyone" when it comes to other things. When it comes to the way shidduchim are made today we aren't willing to admit that the system in place is unwieldy, degrading, seriously flawed and, what's worse, doesn't work for a whole lot of the people using it. And even where it might be used to make an actual shidduch, a whole lot of those shidduchim don't result in "wonderful" marriages or in marriages that last.

How long is it going to take before those with children of shidduch age and those who are themselves in the parsha finally take that deep breath and say "The Emperor is naked!" How long before our frum society recognizes that systems for shidduch making are not written in stone, nor were they given at Har Sinai and are immutable?

As long as dating causes severe angst and gets glares when mentioned, I'll stay happily retired. As long as dating is looked at akin with other things to do that are painful but necessary, I'll opt out. As long as dating is no longer fun but goes in tandem with that other F word we don't use in polite company, I want no part of it. But frankly, I have to wonder and am still puzzled by why anyone would want to have anything to do with dating and shidduch making as it's constituted today.

A little rebellion or revolution is more than called for, but where are the brave and determined people who will lead that insurgence? A sad commentary, but if Patrick Henry were alive today and giving his impassioned speech, crying "Give me liberty or give me death!" there might be a whole lot of people who would shrug their shoulders and mark down on his resume "Unsuitable for shidduchim--doesn't toe the party line."


aminspiration said...

That last sentence is unfortunately very true and very sad!

No one is willing to make a statement for fear of being marked rebellious and unsuitable for marriage.

I like the idea of the 3x5, but do need some more information than just age and height..

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

Not to make light of a serious topic, but I was sure you were going to talk about how index cards have become a thing of the past, as people take notes on all sorts of portable electronics...

working@21 said...

It is already happening. The grassroots are already in effect and the process just needs time to grow. More and more singles have no interest in dealing with being overloaded with information and just want to go out on the first few dates just to see if they can have fun with their date.

I personally figured out the shidduch dating just didn't work before i even started dating. However, I was guilty of "toeing the line" and went out on shidduch dates.

I finally came to the conclusion that it was waste of time for myself, the shadchanim, and whoever I got set up.

Instead, I started going out with friends recommendations. All I wanted was a name and phone number (which I got about an hour before I called the girl).

Eventually I fell in love with a girl that I met on the train (WITHOUT ANY INTERMEDIARIES).

Sefardi Gal said...

Amazing post!
I think you're on the money with just about every single point you've made, and 22 + 9 shidduchim = wow! Baruch HaShem, that's a huge zchut.

I specified "just about" because I think that it's unfortunate that you're no longer doing shidduchim. We need shadchanim like you. Shadchanim who have experience, know what dating is about, and don't get involved in the shtuyot.

Working@21 - Train? Oooh! I'm sure there's a great story behind that. But you did have an intermediary: HASHEM!

Anonymous said...

Whats happening now is really sad. i know a guy in his thirties who does so much "investigating" that it has already happened a couple times that by the time he had an answer the girl was "taken".
The sort of things he looks for are pretty nuts. He is a college grad and only wants a college grad, but will turn girls down if they " read goyishe books,while in college!.

Primum Non Nocere said...

Brilliant! You are right on target. The current shidduch system is a miserable failure. And I agree with Sefardi Gal that it is a pity you're no longer involved. So, ProfK, if you were put in charge what measures would you implement to fix the system? How about a post listing your top five recommended revisions to the current shidduch system?

Primum Non Nocere

profk_offspring said...

Speaking as a single, the index card concept works just fine for me. As my mother will attest, my last date came by way of a friend's mother (who my mom knows). Said mother informed me most emphatically that she was not a shadchan of the modern variety, had no interest in hand-holding or encyclopedic amounts of info, and doing her very best Joe Friday impression, gave me (and presumably him) just the barest facts. It was arranged in less than 20 minutes and though it didn't work out, it was one of my most enjoyable dates (and shidduch experiences) of late.

working@21 said... said...

Sefardi gal:

ok, no human intermediary. :)

Abba's Rantings said...

22 + 9?!
If anyone else made this claim I'd call then a liar
I'm amazed that people can even make one shidduch

ProfK said...

Just keep in mind that those shidduchim were spread out over almost 40 years. And I had friends who made many more shidduchim than that. Also keep in mind that by shidduch I mean simply that I was the original "fixer-upper" and the couple took it from there. There was lots more time to go on to the next possibility when I didn't have to hold the hands of a couple throughout the whole process.

frum single female said...

wow... its too bad you are no longer involved in shidduchim since its seems you are the type who should be.

Anonymous said...

I agree with frum single female and Sefardi Gal. We could use a few more shadchanim like you out there. If it helps, there are still a whole bunch of singles who don't ask endless questions specifically for the purpose of saving SOMETHING to talk about on the dates...

Anonymous said...

I too dabble in shidduchim and have made many (never counted) shidduchim.
I totally agree with this post..
I call it the CIA, FBI investigation.
The sad thing is the people who come up with shtuss in their research are usually the ones with issues. Somehow people have 20/20 vision when researching a suggested shidduch and have extremely poor vision when looking in the mirror. What they need to do is clear their mirrors and stop digging. I was involved with a shidduch recently. One side was all excited about a suggestion because the great great grandparent was a big wig. However I know that the actual mishpacha (the today mishpacha) is problematic and I myself would think twice before proceeding - but because a ancestor was a somebody they were all excited. The problem is people are too busy feeding their egos .. and who are they impressing??
It is total shtuss. A mentsh, a yiras shamayim and someone to respect is the basis for a successful marriage.
Where has all the Emes gone??
I propose we all work on Moshiach's arrival and let Moshiach be the shadchan - 'cause it is getting totally out of hand.
Additionally the author of this blog seems to have been a shadchan and doing so lishma - which is the way it was done in the days of the 3 x 5 cards ;-). Unfortunately today it has become a business and that too has ruined the process. The Business Shadchanim are cheapening the process - when the pocket beckons and not the heart the results are not quite the same.
The amount of time devoted to getting a couple to even date has increased tremendously so I understand receiving shadchanus it is koshere gelt and an important inyon (but since when do we have a rate schedule?) Also I find it ironic - the more checking that's being done it appears - the more divorces (r'l).
I think this is a very serious message. We need to start focusing on the ikur - shame on us for allowing the shtuss to infiltrate our midst.
If we can all try to focus on the important stuff I know there will be an increase in successful marriages.
One last message... the bachurim and girls all need to realize that the guy they are dating or the girl cannot be "just like" your friends husband/wife.. When you compare to someone who is already married (cooked and baked) you are being totally unfair to them and most importantly to yourself.