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