Last week’s column was meant to be the last, for now, on the subject of shidduchim. Because of the problems singles experience in finding their soul mates, I had devoted several columns to the subject and was prepared to move on – until I received an e-mail I feel is a must read in order for us to gain a better understanding of the pain some of our singles are experiencing.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis, I read with great interest your series of columns on shidduchim. The subject is very close to my heart. At 36, I have been on more dates than I care to admit, but have yet to find my bashert. Most of my friends are in the same boat – they too are frustrated and hurting. When we get together we try to avoid discussing it. It’s too painful, so we try to bury the loneliness we feel – we go out to dinner, laugh, and try to have fun. But it’s all a pretense. Our classmates are all married and have beautiful families while we sit alone in our apartments.
When Shabbos or holidays come, the sadness is even more piercing. My options are to stay home and have Shabbos/holiday meals by myself, accept an invitation from a family member or a friend, attend a singles Shabbaton, or go to my elderly parents. The choices are not very attractive.
To stay at home by myself is to sit in darkness. To go to others is to seem like a charity case or feel obligated to baby-sit or offer some other service. When I visit families with children, I am ashamed to admit, I have a battle in my heart. I don’t want to be jealous. I don’t want to be bitter. Just the same, there is no sense denying the feelings are there and very difficult to overcome. I keep asking myself why I have been denied the simple gift of building a home and raising a family.
I have four siblings. My older brother and I are still single and I know this is a worry that plagues my parents, which is why I cannot bear the thought of going home for Shabbos or Yom Tov. So I do not have many options.
Wherever I go, whatever I do, I always see a shadow hovering over me. And this shadow is not silent. It whispers by day and by night and it whispers as I attend to the daily needs of my clients.
The whisper is constant and doesn’t let go, and its message takes on many shapes and forms. When I see other people’s babies and children, the whisper says, “Your biological clock is ticking away; you will never have children!” On other occasions I hear the whisper of a shadchan whom I recently consulted: “You have to be more realistic,” she said. “You are not exactly Miss America, you know, and the type of man you described wouldn’t want you. And then she recommended some men who were, to be blunt, real losers – men who needed someone to support them or who had other problems.
I told her that while I may not look like Miss America, I do not know anyone who does. My married friends don’t, and yet they are married and raising children. But my words fell on deaf ears and the shadchan clung to her position. “Well,” she finally said, “if you refuse to face reality, there’s very little I can do to help.”
I’ve been to more singles weekends and more Shabbos dinners than you can imagine. I live on the Upper West Side and the reason I chose to take an apartment there – though it’s more expensive than other areas and I could barely afford it – is because everyone told me it’s a haven for Jewish singles and there are myriad places I would be able to go on Shabbos and Yom Tov and feel comfortable. There are invitations galore from families who host singles, and there is always some organization or synagogue that offers Shabbos dinners. It’s alive, it’s friendly and it’s the place to meet. So, full of hope, I moved there.
In my mind’s eye, I saw a wonderful image of myself walking down the aisle, rejoicing and dancing at my own simcha. But real life brought its disappointments and my hopes were dashed. I soon realized that all this camaraderie was counterproductive. The stock answer to shidduch recommendations was, “Oh yes, I know him/her – we are good friends.” And that was the end of a shidduch or even a date opportunity.
I come from a very religious family and I now realize how right they were and how foolish we are. In the community in which I grew up, friendship between the sexes was simply off limits. Dating was only for tachlis – for marriage. Even prior to a boy and girl going out, families investigated very carefully and if the person who was recommended seemed appropriate, the dating process commenced – but would be quickly terminated if either of the parties felt there was no potential for marriage.Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis