Monday, January 10, 2011

Fixing the System--the First Step

PNN asked me what five things I would do if I were in charge of fixing the shidduch-making system. A lot of things come to mind, but I believe that what I will present now is the first step that must be taken.

A shidduch requires one male and one female, one man and one woman. Getting married is about the joining of two human beings into one family unit. Human beings--special creations made b'tzelem Elokim. Human beings--each one unique, each one an individual. True, we all share certain characteristics, making us part of the family of mankind. However, we are not clones, mass-produced on some assembly line. An awareness of the truth of these words is sadly missing in today's shidduch making process.

Today's shidduch making has reduced the key players to being viewed as sechoirah, as merchandise to be bought and sold. There is a push when a "new batch" hits the shelves to sell them off as quickly as possible. The language used is the language of business and sales, and the techniques and pitches are also those used in business and sales. "Sellers" hustle to position their "wares" as advantageously as possible. The "younger," the "fresher" the merchandise the easier it is to dispose of is how people reason. There is a frantic effort to "move the merchandise" as quickly as possible before a new "product" is available for sale.

The "shelf life" of those who enter into shidduchim is seen as limited and of short duration. If you don't sell the "product" quickly then who knows if it will ever sell at all. Sellers abide by a very short "sell by date." Granted, when the next "batch" is delivered, the sellers still keep the old merchandise around. But they stick that "merchandise" into a corner of an out of the way shelf. Maybe someone will spot it there, and may someone won't. The push is not there any longer to "advertise" the old "wares" nor to present them to buyers who come calling. Ask a "merchant" why he/she does this and they basically shrug their shoulders and tell you that everyone knows that younger is better. Their efforts are better put into selling the new merchandise.

I am appalled and disgusted by this attitude. There is no "sell by" date that comes attached to human beings. No one, but no one knows precisely when their bashert will be found. Yes, you have to do your hishtadlus and be active in looking for a shidduch, but there is no timetable that must be slavishly adhered to. No, eighteen to twenty-one are not some magical numbers that signify the cream of the crop when it comes to shidduch making.

Let me co-opt some of that language that is used so disgracefully and turn it on its head. You want to consider our singles as something to be bought and sold? Then stop using ToysRUs and WalMart as the business model. Instead, look at farmers. Smart farmers know that not every item they plant will grow at the same rate, nor ripen at the same rate. Some produce requires a longer growing season and some a shorter one. Some produce requires careful attention in order to come into full bloom and some seems to grow no matter what you do or don't do for it. Some produce requires a longer ripening season if it is to be at its peak.

Just because a gardening manual or the back of a packet of seeds says that it will take X days/weeks/months for a plant to be at perfect maturity doesn't mean that that will happen. Plants are also individuals, and while they may generally follow certain patterns, they don't necessarily grow and develop in quite the same way that others of their type do.

Ever shop for avocados? Some of those avocados in the bin are hard as a rock and will take quite some time to become edible. So what? Give them that extra time and they are perfectly delicious avocados. Ever bite into a berry that needed more time to develop and come to peak flavor? Picked too early they are bitter and sour.

And is there anyone who has a brain who will assume that all fruits and vegetables and grains must grow at precisely the same rate, for the same amount of time? Is there anyone with a brain who believes that the growing conditions are identical for every single item that grows?

So yes, it is more than time that we stop looking at our young people as if they were factory produced inanimate objects and start looking at them as if they were individual human beings, each with their own needs and requirements for coming into full bloom. The language of buying and selling has no business in shidduchim, and neither does the attitude that that language engenders.


Anonymous said...

You mean we're not for sale? How brave of you to say so, and how right! Now how are you going to get the others out there that think we're slabs of meat to change their minds?

Primum Non Nocere said...

Many thanks for responding to my question! What can we as singles do in order to encourage shadchanim to adopt your outlook?

Primum Non Nocere