As I settle into my 30s, I find myself caught at a merciless crossroad. You see, I am not married, do not have children, and hence am not technically part of a community. According to the condemnatory Orthodox community, my life is unaccomplished and fruitless. I am not established. I speak on behalf of women who, in their 20s, had similar visions of the Orthodox expectation – a husband, children – a beautiful bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael.
Questions such as, “Why aren’t you married yet? What is wrong with you? Are you being too picky?” are not irrelevant. Please, if you are true G-d fearing Jews, you wouldn’t ask us those mindless questions. Do not judge, for you are not on our side of the fence. Believe me, you do not pray as much as we do, scurry after rabbis to provide us with a yeshuah, or bother with discoveries of new and old segulahs to redeem us from our current state. We have establishedTehillim, Shir HaShirim, and lashon ha’ra groups. (There is nothing we have not attempted, so please do not advise us further on the ‘perfect antidote’.)
And still we remain caught in our reveries, without husbands, without our individual homes. We wish, we desire, but we are not married. Oh, we do date. No, we are not picky. We meet with shadchanim, we go to single events, shabbatons, etc. We are willing to be set up by family, friends, even strangers on the Internet. We date as much as we can, and we don’t say no after the first few dates. We understand that by giving our dates a chance, we give ourselves the opportunity to a future. We do not close doors and are willing to compromise, adapt, move, and modify our expectations.
After dating more than a decade, I have come to the realization that lately I have taken dating less seriously. Perhaps it is because of the men I have dated who don’t call back, who aren’t stable, who aren’t serious, who don’t know what they want, who fear commitment, who think they can get better. How should I take these men seriously? I do not mean to generalize, but I look around and ask myself as well as the hundreds of single healthy-minded women who grew up in the same community, “What is going on here?”
We are at a loss. And so we have advanced ourselves in our careers, in our hobbies, in our own happiness and growth. What do you expect us to do, stay on the sidelines and wait for the right man to come along and rescue us? We’ve been there, done that. We are tired of waiting and anticipating for our turn to come.
Thank G-d we are strong women who know how to stand on our own two feet and brush the dirt off our pretty skirts after falling so many times. We are not pitiable. We take our G-d given lives seriously − the skills, talents and gifts that were bestowed upon us to benefit others and ourselves. We contribute to our communities in different ways as smart, educated and mindful women.
But now I find myself in a dilemma and must make an imperative decision. I have cultivated myself to be a consciously religious, G-d fearing and loving woman, but I now have to use logic to decipher what is most important at this stage of life. You see, I have considered dating non-religious Jewish men, men removed from our communities. I feel that I must take this step or will forever find myself being married to myself, my career, my education This is how much I have compromised. This is how much I want to be settled, married and have children.
I have made up my mind, as I know many others who find themselves in a similar quandary, that if we don’t settle down soon enough, we’ll lose our desire to make a home. We are too content with our current lives – we have our careers, we are financially secure, cultured, renting or own apartments, busy with our lives, etc. But what happens if we wait to the point where we are not capable of having children? I am not going to take that chance. This is the predicament that we are encountering. Remember, we are not in our 20s any longer; matchmakers are not as concerned with us as with the younger generation.
Recently I started dating someone who is considering becoming religious, to conduct a Torah household when he is married; however, not at this point in time. This is someone I truly like and can see myself with. He is kind, generous, smart, funny, honest, serious and mature. What do I do? He is not the type of person that comes around often. I am not oblivious to the consequences when children are in the picture; education and lifestyle need to be considered. I would like to raise them in a similar fashion to my upbringing, but I know that I will have to take a chance with their religious education.
I have finally met someone whom I can relate to and admire and can live with what more can I consider right now? I am aware that it is usually the more religious minded partner in a relationship who will end up changing, rather than the “left”-minded one. I just have to make a decision – knowing that there is the realistic probability that I may not have Shabbos Zemiros or Torah conversations at the table. Perhaps I will need to compromise more on the actual halachos than the Spirit of the law.
I am taking the risks quite seriously and the pros on my list do not outweigh the cons. This is something many of the women of my generation are considering and yes, it is sad in a way, that dating has come to this point. But what am I to do?
Response to follow…