Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Dating Coach,

So much has been written about the shidduch crisis. However, in my experience as a woman in her early 30’s living in the NY area, I have found the single most deterring factor has overwhelmingly been the judgmental, close-minded, and stubborn mentality of many (not all) singles. Judgments can range from what school you went to, to what community you grew up in, to your current neighborhood. I have been told that “he” won’t date girls from Brooklyn, a girl from ‘out of town,’ or a girl who attended a specific high school or seminary. I am constantly frustrated by shadchanim who simply accept these arbitrary ‘rules’ instead of encouraging these guys to at least meet me for a coffee! How do I stop myself from feeling down for being labeled and denied before I make it to a date?!

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Signed and Sealed

 

Dear Sealed,

The toys in our playroom are organized by type. There is a box with cars in every color, a box of animals, a box of plastic tools, and enough pretend food to feed the imagination. I am positive (27 percent sure) that there is an evil disorganization devil that rearranges the boxes at night just to play with my mind. How a daring matchbox convertible believes that it can mingle with Elsa is beyond me. Don’t get me started on ‘pretend tools’ that invite musical instruments to play. Of course, you are surprised; their audacity is shocking. Sometimes, however, there is a toy that simply stumps me. Where does the miniature rocking horse belong? With the animals? The baby toys? Do I need to consider its transportation value and put it with the vehicles? And don’t get me started on Transformers! Are they people? Cars? The possibilities truly offend me. (Yes, I do recognize that I may have a problem. I feel your judgment.) In the light of the morning, I encourage myself to consider that some toys simply fit comfortably in many boxes; where Barbie and GI Joe live happily together.

 
Don’t Rely…

Your letter was difficult to read. I hear your frustration so clearly in every word you wrote and how baffled you are by something that seems so clear to you. As an experienced single, you know that we are constantly growing and evolving and being held to the choices of the past is often unfair. Furthermore, you don’t understand how people can disregard a person based solely on their current borough or the neighborhood they grew up in. To paint everyone in a specific zip code with one brush is both prejudicial and foolish. You ask shadchanim to advocate for you when you are turned down before a date based on these reasons, but they seem unwillingly to fight the bias and preconception.

 

Too Much on Labels….

We are not naïve and a refusal to acknowledge that different neighborhoods garner their own status and standing would be short-sighted. Sure, like all things, we are all prejudged by previous history and the broader picture. In that same vein, to assume that every person from one area is alike is completely ridiculous. Without disregarding reputation, we can still fight for our right to be considered as individuals. Perhaps there are some or even many – who have been known to project similarly in a regard, but it is truly asinine to refuse to date someone because their zip code ‘has a reputation.’

 
Far Too Often…

Past schooling and seminaries also become moot with the passage of time. To hold a 30-year-old to the reputation of their high school is laughable. Even if they still identify by the hashkafa and character of their past education, enough years has past to garner a second look. Furthermore, I would be remiss not to mention that after so many years in shidduchim, the one lesson we hope one learns is to have an open mind. To perhaps accept at the very least that your dating experience thus far should encourage you to consider that your match may not be in the place you have always looked. To turn down a date due to a preconceived notion based on bias and supposition removes a truly valuable portion of the dating pool. Men and women dating in their 30’s must focus on individuality, integrity, and honest compatibility. It is imperative that they shun typecasting to focus on finding a zivug.

 

They are Fables.

In the meantime, be you – authentically and unapologetically you. You do not have control over the boxes that others insist on filling with stereotypes. You can control the image you project however. So be the individual that you are and people will take note. Yes, Covid has limited our social gatherings, but every outing offers a potential connection. The grocery store, the bakery, volunteering, and your job still afford you the chance to meet people. Those people know people and those people know others, making your reach farther than you might imagine. They will see you as you are now and can connect you appropriately should an idea spark. Remember that every single time you leave your house, you have the chance to make a fresh impression. Behave, dress, and conduct yourself with intent in every single interaction that you have. With Hashem’s help, your davening, and your determination to connect today to as many people as you can – you will meet your like-minded, box-blending match.

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Henni Halberstam is a Dating and Marriage Coach whose expert advice will help you navigate dating and relationships in order to ensure a successful marriage. You can contact her at hennihalberstam@gmail.com to schedule a phone session.