(Dear Readers: I wasn’t going to continue on this topic but it seems that shidduchim – or the difficulty in getting one – is an issue that is on everybody’s mind. It almost seems that as soon as the baby is born, there is worry about a shidduch.)
When I was a camper way back in the previous century, there was a game we would play called “Capture the Flag”. Campers were divided into two teams with the goal of finding and attaining the other side’s flag. You could be sneaky, conniving, aggressive, etc. As the saying goes, “All’s fair in love and war.”
In today’s shidduch scene, it seems to me that every unmarried frum male or female is playing a personal version of this game; except that the goal is to “capture” a spouse. On this “battlefield,” there are no teams (unless you include family and good friends who are looking out for you). Each player is on his/her own. Your peers are not on your side, for they are your competitors. And it’s brutal out there.
There was a time, not too long ago, when there was a child considered of age to enter the shidduch parsha (usually in the early 20’s for the girls – a couple of years later for the boys, an age viewed nowadays to be approaching old maid/bachelorhood) and there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the family. After the initial phone call, mothers would mentally envision the gown she would make and the fathers would stock up on the schnapps.
If the date didn’t work out, the attitude was, “so what, there were ‘plenty of fish in the sea,’ and opportunities to meet them.” Many marriages were the outcome of teenage pairings that began years earlier at camp. College age students met in class or on campus in a designated area frequented by the frum students. Many friendships that began by sharing notes or studying together also resulted in shidduchim. Introductions by friends and family ensured a steady stream of potential spouses, and shadchanim were glad to take on new clients for those who preferred going that route.
The mood in 2006 is diametrically opposite. In many households (even those that are considered “having it made,” shidduch-wise: i.e., above average financially, yichus, great-looking kids), when a child – especially a daughter – enters the parsha, apprehension and a gnawing anxiety fills the household. It is a situation that can almost be likened to the just-below-the-surface angst an Israeli family experiences when their son is drafted. An ever-present unspoken question hovers over the family. “Will there be a good outcome? Will we get through this intact?”
Why this foreboding and unease? It’s because, sooner or later, nice heimish boys and girls ended up under the chuppah. This is no longer a given.
In recent discussions with childhood friends and acquaintances, many strongly feel that if “they were out there” now, as opposed to 30 years ago, they doubt that they would have gotten married. Some had been “pleasantly plump,” or had frizzy hair or “Jewish” noses, or were fashion mules as opposed to clothes horses. They are convinced that in today’s shidduch climate, they wouldn’t have even gotten on “the list” – let alone get dates. Look at our daughters, they say. They are slimmer, better dressed, with manicured hands and waxed eyebrows – and the phone barely rings for them. The shadchanim won’t even take down their information – let alone set them up.
“We dated on a pretty regular basis and all got married. As for those of our friends who didn’t, it wasn’t from a lack of opportunities. “What happened?” they ask in wonder.
Why has the journey on the road to matrimony become an uphill battle on what feels like the path to hell?
Before I address that question, I want to point out that the despair many parents are experiencing regarding whether their daughters will successfully “capture the flag” is not one-sided. Many mothers of sons have told me that their boys have become what they call serial daters – dating one girl after another. And not by choice. They endure numerous rejections and have to start all over again, sometimes after dating a girl several times. Months, and even years, of dating is depleting their finances, their physical and mental energy and even worse, their egos.
Time after time, on both sides of the fence, apprehensive, anxious parents watch as their children shrug off their wounds and attempt another foray onto the shidduch battlefield. All they can do, it seems, is grab their Tehillim and pray.
(To be continued)