Letter # 1
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis;
I won’t be seeing my husband and children this Shabbos. I won’t see them next week either. As a matter of fact, I won’t be seeing them next month either. That’s because I don’t have a husband or children yet.
Yet I wonder when will I? It gets to me, sometimes more than at others, but lately, it seems worse, harder to take. One thing that doesn’t help is ”other people.” I just went Baruch Hashem, to another simcha and there I sat, almost invisible. Invisible because I don’t have a sheitel on my head. A divorced woman is never treated this way, never invisible. I sat there and no one asked me anything other than one single question about a piece of jewelry that I wore. Not even ”How are you?” or ”What are you doing?,” or ”Where will you be for Sukkos?”
I didn’t attempt to make conversation. I’ve been through this countless numbers of times, and I know exactly how it goes. I used to make conversation, but finally after years and years of the effort coming only from my part, I decided that this year – that’s it, and so I just sat there and couldn’t wait to leave and be home. I’m sure that there will be those reading this that will say, ”It probably shows, and that’s why no one talks to you.” No, it doesn’t as I smile and act as if there’s nothing wrong.
These were not strangers, but my own relatives to whose simchas I’ve gone to most of my life. I won’t even go into how they never ever helped me with shidduchim, yet some would criticize my mother and me with actual relish, that it’s our fault that I am not yet married.
But to think that it so hard for them to give a little chizuk at a simcha is hard to take. It’s enough that there are no invitations all these years for a Shabbos or a Chanukah (eight nights to choose from!) Or Purim, or just an invitation to a Sunday lunch or brunch. No calls ever all year round all these years. (Or at least not a real invitation – there were those few who would ask ”Would you come for a Shabbos? I’ll call you” – and then they never did).
When they see a relative of theirs who is still single, while their lives have been blessed with spouses and families – why can’t they summon up a few words to talk with this person? To wish me well, to see if in some way they could give some chizuk? Just by talking! They don’t even seem to think of helping, like suggesting a good shadchan.
I know that I am not the only one to suffer this way, but I also know why there are few single girls over 30 or 40 at simchas, and there are many, many in that group. There comes a point where you just don’t want to be the oldest single at any event and you also don’t want to be treated as if you’re invisible. So you might as well not be there and not go.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
I have attended many of your Torah classes and have always found them informative, stimulating and inspiring. To be candid, I have also come for shidduch purposes, but thus far have had no luck. I live on the Upper West Side. I have participated in the many shidduch programs available in that community and have been on countless singles weekends and Shabbatons. I have met some very nice people – but I have as yet to find my basherte. Why? I do not know. It certainly has not been for lack of effort on my part.
I am a 57-year-old man. I own and operate a successful business. I am in good shape, work out daily, love music and travel. Everyone tells me that I don’t look my age… I don’t really know what someone my age (57) is supposed to look or act like. All I can tell you is that I feel young and act young. I am loathe to admit to my age however, because that automatically limits me when it comes to a shidduch. I have to marry someone who is no older than 37. You see, I would still like to have children. I know that I would make a wonderful father. When it comes to kids, I have loads of patience and I feel that I have a lot to offer.
Unfortunately, for many reasons, too complicated to go into in this letter, I never married. I guess what it all boils down to is that I was too choosy, and time has passed me by. So here I am, 57 and single, still looking for that special someone.
I know that you will most probably say that nowadays, women in their forties are also having children, and it would be more appropriate for me to marry someone closer to my own age, but women who are having children in their forties are the exception, and I can’t really rely upon that. If I don’t have children soon, our family line will, G-d forbid, come to an end. I have one brother, and he is married to a Gentile, so while he has two children, they are not Jewish. My father is no longer alive, and I would love to have a name for him, which would also comfort my 90 year old ailing mother. So, as you can see, it’s not selfishness or vanity that prompts me to seek a younger marriage partner, but the preservation of our family name.
It has been a very painful and lonely quest, and people have made it worse. I have not only had very little sympathy from friends and relatives, but they have said some very cruel things to me like, I should face facts, come to terms with my age, and not be an old man who chases after young girls. And the shadchanim have been no better – they have been downright unsupportive. My situation is difficult enough, and I need people to give me chizuk – strength, and not sarcasm. I am totally misunderstood – I just want to have children.
And yet, I know of many men my age who married younger women. Why can’t I have the same good fortune? Am I chasing a rainbow?
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis