Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match

Preface: It is likely that I will offend many people over the course of this post, as it centers on a very delicate and sensitive issue. Know that this is not my intention, and I have made an effort to tone down the sarcasm (if not the cynicism) in an attempt to be respectful. I therefore ask that if you show me the same courtesy. If you disagree with my opinions, keep in mind that they are only opinions; I invite you to share yours respectfully in the comments section below, and we can engage in a calm and rational discussion of ideas. The purpose of this blog is not to inflame or offend, so please don’t take it as such. In addition, I am speaking purely from the guy’s perspective, seeing as I am in fact a guy. I imagine there are plenty of horror stories that women could tell, so one of you should start a blog and write them :) Lastly, this is a spiritual sequel to (stereo)typical, so I suggest you read that first to understand some of the references.

Okay, so last time I put up a real post (i.e. not part of my Diary of a Music Nerd column), I spoke at length about how we perpetuate our own potentially inaccurate stereotypes through what essentially comes down to really bad PR. This time, in direct contrast to that, I’d like to get down to brass tacks, as they say. What I’m about to discuss is a real world problem that absolutely exists, as much as people would like to deny or minimize it, and is completely and totally 100% irrational, as much as people want to justify it. Therefore, without further ado, “Tzvi’s Thoughts and Musings on the 21st century Jewish Matchmaking Process,” or, in short, “Why I Can’t Stand the Modern Shidduch System.”

This isn’t a new topic for me. I wouldn’t say that I’m an outspoken critic of the system, but people who know me know that I don’t like the idea of marrying for practicality instead of love. I think that “well, it could work” is not a good enough reason to spend your life with someone. Granted, the practical aspect must be there because no matter how much you love someone, you’ll be hard pressed to create a life with them if you’re totally incompatible personality-wise. However, that in and of itself is an entirely separate discussion. Maybe I’ll do another follow up if I feel the need, but it’s not really my focus right now. It was important enough to include here though, because it provides the context for what I’m about to say.

Since the beginning of Arbitribe, I’ve brought up many incidents involving my post-high school yeshiva to try and illustrate a point, all of which served as examples about things in the Jewish world that make me angry, and the one I’m about to tell one is no exception. Towards the close of the yeshiva year, right around when everyone gets back from Pessach break, just about every yeshiva makes a big push for their guys coming back for a second year. The ones who want to come back will have already made that decision earlier in the year, and the ones the yeshiva doesn’t want back (like me) would be left to their own devices, leaving the undecided to be persuaded to return. Generally the rosh yeshiva will call on the rabbis to corner the guys they’re closest with and have a “friendly chat” about coming back, because hey, food needs to get on the table somehow. However, my yeshiva went one step further, bringing in a well respected rabbi and public speaker to give us that “friendly chat” en masse. The speech took an hour and change, but it can be summarized in a single line: If you don’t go Shana Bet, no one will want to marry you. The first time he dropped that line I actually snorted and fought back a laugh, because wow, this guy is so out of touch with reality it’s scary. Only in later years after many an experience did I learn that what was actually scary about that speech was that he was right on the money, which brings me to my point. Let’s talk a little bit about prioritizing.

I’ve actually taken a look at certain shidduch applications before, out of sheer curiosity, and the amount of utterly useless information required is astounding. In fact, the application from our favorite Jewish matchmaking site is pretty tame by comparison. It makes sense to want to know some things about a prospective date, but to try and know a person from a piece of paper is ridiculous. Some things you can only know from meeting a person, and to refuse to even meet them because they didn’t go Shana Bet is incredibly shortsighted. Imagine that that happened and then turns out the guy didn’t go back for another year because he stayed home to take care of his dying father or something like that. They don’t put those kind of stories on the resume, people. Sometimes you just have to suffer a potentially fruitless date, or several, to really get the picture.

Another pet peeve, one that I touched upon last time, is the overemphasis on physicality. Yes, I truly believe you must be physically attracted to someone in order to have a romantic relationship with them, but to reject a guy because he's 5’8” instead of 6’2” is ridiculous. Are your priorities really that out of order? A guy could be everything you ever wanted sans the blonde hair and you shut him down? Stupid.

All of this is troubling, but the biggest problem in my opinion is the fact that there are so many things that people are concerned about that are just objectively not important. This is something I encounter a lot in the metal community, for example. There are people who won’t talk to you if you listen to metalcore or think Megadeth is better than Metallica. These things simply should just not interfere with your overall relationship with a person. In that same vein, not going out with someone because he’s an Islander fan, doesn’t like waffles, or wears a black velvet kippa instead of a knitted one just doesn’t make sense to me. Those examples sound ridiculous, right? The sad thing is that they’re all COMPLETELY TRUE STORIES! There is a person I know that goes with each of those bad date stories, and the waffles one was actually a girl getting rejected, believe it or not. Things that people base dating decisions on are abnormal. You’re never going to marry a perfect person, so it's better that his flaws include sports team allegiance and headwear choice instead of alcoholism and domestic abuse.

People are always saying stuff about the shidduch crisis, but let’s be honest, we’re doing it to ourselves. There’s a man I know who is too old for the dating game but is still single because he had his standards set so high and his priorities so out of order for so long that he missed all the opportunities. He’s turned that around now, but the selection is obviously not as vast as it could have been 20 years ago when he should have been meeting people. Any issue can be worked around if you are committed enough to the other person and to the relationship, and you can learn to love someone even though they’re not the sculpted Adonis you really wanted. People who go into the experience expecting perfect are deluded and will be sorely disappointed. Then again, I guess that’s exactly what the problem is; people expect their potential partners to be hand-tailored to their specifications, and they don’t budge on anything. That’s a surefire way to stay single. The shidduch crisis is because we can’t get our priorities in order. If you can’t find the man for you, maybe it’s time to lower the unattainable bar you set and take a chance on someone. The things people put so much stock in are just not important; it’s the quality of a person that counts, not her choice of breakfast munchables.

On a happier note, as I write this sentence, Arbitribe has a total of 9,998 total pageviews, so if you’re reading this, YOU might be number 10,000! Congratulations to us! We’re throwing a party, and you’re invited. Until next time, I'm outta here. Midterms await!

Song of the Day: This is the Life – Dream Theater


  1. Deal breaker= new york sports fans.... :D

    Dude, you didn't give me a new link to spam. I am disappoint.

  2. Anonymous, would you mind elaborating on that puke? :p

  3. Every point you made is perfectly relevant. The "system" sickens me.

  4. Aha, I understand now. That's kind of what I was going for there lol

  5. I think I'm going to run away. :D

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. As I have mentioned beforehand, I don't care about height, maybe because I am tall myself. And guys say no to me because I am the same height or slightly taller than them.

    Are you haranguing men here as well as women?

  8. A little bit. I did mention in the preface that I can only speak from the guy's perspective because I'm a guy and that's generally been my experience (and before you get any misconceptions, no, I never have and never will be a part of the Shidduch system). So I have a lot of bad rejection stories from my guy-friends that got shut down for absurd reasons. However, as you may have noticed, I did "harangue" on men, as you put it, one or twice. Case in point: the waffles story.
    Thanks for that word by the way, harangue is awesome, and I forgot about it. You get full credit if it makes it into my next post :)

  9. Seeing as you yourself don't have any actual experience in the shidduch system, it is a bit presumptuous of you to comment on it. I don't disagree with anything you said (although I admit I did only read this once and not with that much focus on specifics), but I would leave this sort of topic to someone who knows what they're talking about.

  10. I don't disagree with your premise, S; people talking about what they know nothing about makes me crazy. However, you seem to be misunderstanding the situation here, on two levels.
    At the most basic, while I agree that there are some things you can only really know once you have experienced them, the shidduch system is simply not one of those things. I have heard more than enough stories from friends and family who have experienced it. In addition, as I mentioned in the post, I have looked at applications on many prominent Jewish dating websites and have seen several completed shidduch resumes, so my information is not baseless and my opinions are not unfounded. You yourself said that you only gave my post a cursory glance, so I would caution you to not call me presumptuous before really reading what I've said.
    In a more philosophical context, I was using the shidduch system as a means to an end, not as the end itself. Allow me to explain: the modern shidduch system is a symptom of a greater problem. That's not a critique of the system itself per se, but rather of the people in it, in the same way that I love Judaism but not necessarily the way Jews behave most of the time. My rant here is criticizing the out-of-whack priorities and standards that people often have when it comes to dating and marriage. The best way to illustrate that is by bringing up an institutionalized system in which these standards and priorities are on full display. I mean, what kind of world do we live in where a guy will refuse to even meet a girl who doesn't share his taste in breakfast food? That's insane, really, and I know it's an extreme example, but I have plenty more where that came from.
    This post is not a critique of a system but of people, and to that end I really don't feel the need to have experienced the system in order to use it as a vehicle to get to a point. All I need to have know about is people and their misguided priorities, something I have had plenty of experience in. I didn't frame it in that way, and that's my bad, but at the same time, regardless of my lack of direct experience in the matter, even you couldn't find anything wrong with what I said. I'm basing my opinions on true stories and facts as well as my personal convictions, and while I'm also keeping in mind that there have been innumerable successful marriages brought about by the system, I see no reason to play devil's advocate. I'm not writing a newspaper article where I'm expected to be objective, or an official status report on the modern shidduch system; this is a blog, and I'm entitled to my opinion, and my opinion is that people need to get a grip and realize that perfect doesn't exist. By all means, don't settle when trying to find a spouse, but I think the Yankees/Mets debate doesn't need to be a central point in the interview process, and certainly not a dealbreaker.

  11. The funny is that everything u said in this post has been said by many others, girls and boys. It seems that so many peole have this issue with the system yet it is perpetuated by everyone...

  12. Honestly. In my opinion, it started early on. High schools are cookie-cutter schools. For example, I applied to Renas HS and got rejected because they found out I was a certified scuba diver, and God forbid the male fish in the ocean see me in a bathingsuit. x_x
    The year I was rejected, Renas closed down. Big surprise there. When you set your standards so high, that's what happens. So Jewish Schools have set their standards high, students in them are being brainwashed by absolute stupidity, and yes, the Jewish community has done this to themselves. It's our fault and it will only get worse from here on out.
    Just something to think about...Can you imagine what sort of expectations your kids will have to uphold? What will they have to do to become accepted in a community that's focus is so out of scope with reality? Nobody's perfect. You're not perfect, I'm not perfect...It's time someone realizes that. Until then, things will only go downhill.
    Also, Joanna, there is no running away =)

  13. Vision_Divine90,

    I'm already practically a run-way. :P

    I remember the year Renas closed down. My uber-conformist high school received some of the leftover girls. IMHO, the Bais Yaakov system, and its wanna-bees, should not exist. These enclosed systems, and the communities that support their existence, tend to perpetuate abuse. (Emotion, mental, and even unfortunately physical in some instances.)


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.