The Shidduch (Dating) Process — A Personal Essay
Ah, the glorious dating process…It is probably one of a mother’s biggest nightmares and here’s why.
You would think General Electric’s biggest competitor is BMG Lakewood Yeshiva and The Mir. Yeshiva boys are being frozen in time and girls are being pressure-cooked.
While boys are learning in yeshiva, girls are “encouraged” to attend “Shidduch group” “meet and greets”. Don’t know what that is? Let me explain: Picture a room with ten women sitting behind desks. Then picture a long row of dateable-aged girls standing in a line waiting to prance from table to table smiling and handing out their resumes hoping to meet the criteria that these women have created that will make them eligible for their potential pool of available “wonderful” yeshiva boys.
Then, there is the “lovely” visit to the shadchanim. Who wouldn’t love being escorted through the side entrance down into a basement to speak with a man you’ve never met. This man will look at you, ask you questions and then send you on your way. This man, who you don’t know, will decide who is appropriate for you to date. Isn’t this Kol Kevoda Bas Melech Penima?
Daughters are taken to weddings for anyone they may have met since they were little girls just so they can be “seen.” You never know who may know of a boy for their precious daughter. They are even taken to Shiva calls because “you never know who may be there.” Really? Seriously? Yes!
Mothers of the boys are flooded with resumes. It is a full-time job for a mother to research, make phone calls and meet just the “right people” so that their brilliant son will be set up with the right girl. This process has become so intrusive and so intensive because there is a new school of thought amongst parents. How many times have I heard parents say, “If you allow your child to go out with someone, you have to agree that they can marry them.”? Isn’t this one of the stupidest things you can say? Let me explain this in terms you may better understand: If you shop at Bloomingdales or The Gap or Target and you decide to buy a coat, does that mean you have to keep it? Of course not! You try the coat on again at home, look in the mirror, ask your husband, you mother, your friend, your Rebbetzin and even your cleaning lady if the coat looks right on you. If not, return the coat (Just make sure the ticket is still on it – and you don’t even need a receipt!) So, why doesn’t this simple concept apply to the dating process? Go on a date, or two or even three and then decide whether you should proceed with the person you are dating. Doesn’t that Make sense?
Why so much pressure?
What fascinates me these days is how technology has totally changed the dating game. Texting and sending pictures may be the new deal-breaker. Yay!
Mind you, that of course, boys are learning Torah eight hours a day. Chas V’shalom they should date a girl without seeing her picture first because that would surely be “Bitul Z’man.” So someone brilliantly decided that you should text or email a picture of the potential girl to the boy’s mother or to the boy himself. (Of course, the boy does not have to send a picture of himself to the girl’s mother. The looks of a boy are of no importance if he is a Talmid Chochom.) But, wait, there’ supposedly no access to Internet for Yeshiva boys and they all have kosher phones – so how does this work? A Heter, maybe…I think not..Honestly, I have no idea.
Is there a Rosh Yeshiva that will tell his talmid that he must first look at a picture of a girl before dating her to avoid Bitul Z’man? In fact, Rav Kanievsky, Shlita, and many other rabbonim have spoken against this concept of sending pictures of girls. (You can read Rav Kanievsky’s p’sak on the “Only Simchas” website.) Maybe next time a boy is suggested for my daughter I should ask the shadchan to send me a picture of his head so I can check if he is balding or ask how much he weighs because my daughter is not interested in a fat, balding 24 year old boy, even if she is told he is a Talmid Chochom.
Now we finally, get to the first date. It’s a lot of work to get to this point.
Now that both sets of parents have agreed to allow their children to meet, it’s time to “set up of the date”. When did this get so complicated? When I dated, oh so many years ago, I didn’t have a cell phone. The phone in my home was connected to the kitchen wall and everyone could hear the conversation. Yet, my dates always managed to call me to “set up the date”. Today, with all the advanced technology of cell phones, Viber, FaceTime, texting and actually using your smart phone as a traditional phone, the shadchan has to arrange and set up the date, the time etc. the date. Does the boy not know how to use a phone? The shadchan will even tell the girl what to wear so that she makes a great first impression.
Now Date !…
Finally, everything is ready. All is in place — boy meets girl, or rather boy meets parents of girl, then boy meets girl. They go out — an excellent girl and an excellent boy from an excellent balbatishe/heimishe family. (I still do not know the difference of those two terms although my friends tell me there is a world of a difference.)
They go to the obligatory lounge for their first date. She drinks a Diet Coke (f offered) and he has a Coke. Nothing more. B”H they find things to talk about and such as his stress of whether to “wear the hat on the date, take off the hat after meeting the father, wear the hat in the lounge, or leave the hat in the car”. When that is resolved, it is because the boy sees that the girl didn’t totally freak out when he put his hat on the back seat of the car and drove without a hat. Whew! Relief, she is normal, he decides. Then suddenly… silence. They already have spoken almost everything that “one should speak about on a first date” such as their siblings and parents, and their families going back three generations. Now what? They start to enjoy each other’s company and relax. After an acceptable amount of time, the boy drops the girl at her home, if he can figure it out on his GPS.
As soon as the girl comes in the door, , her mother and/or father immediately attack her with questions. It begins: “Did he walk you to the door? If not, did he wait for you to get inside? Did he tip the waiter nicely? And, on and on more and more questions. After a half hour of interrogation, the phone rings. It’s the shadchan. “So…does your daughter want to go out again?”
The boy is going through the same routine. “How did she look? Oops! oh yeah they all saw the picture, so “does she look like the picture?, Were her parents normal? Is her house fancy? Food on the table? What kind of water did they offer? Did she have manners? Then the boy has a maximum of two hours to get back to the shadchan with a decision whether he wants to date the girl again because, of course “no pressure”, we can’t make the girl feel bad. So now it is a family decision if the boy should go out with this girl again because even though you trust your children to be married and make life decisions, G-D forbid you should trust them to decide if they would like to go on another date.
Now for Tachlis — Hashkofa discussions.
He’s learning 10 years (which I’m told really means 5 years) or learning 5 years (which I am told means maximum 2 years) or learning 2 years (which I am told means, “flying” out of Yeshiva after sheva brochos).
TV or no TV? Video or no video? Will you watch movies on a laptop or on your phone? All these are very important issues. But do they discuss their career goals or how they plan to support themselves in the future? Probably, that’s taken for granted…It’s the parents mitzvah to support Of course not. HaKadosh Baruch Hu is in charge and He will take care of that…parnassah, life decisions, where they live, Israel or wherever…
That’s a plan.
Now if they are totally in sync Hashkofa wise, they feel good enough to date again.Home, same scenario as Date 1 when they each arrive home.
Date 3, 4, etc….
Somewhere during the dates that follow the boy and/or girl decide that they are not well suited for each other and they tell their parents who tell the shadchan. Much to their parents exasperation and more so to the shadchan’s chagrin, they must start this process all over again.
Otherwise, you’re engaged – Mazel tov! You are only allowed to date for a maximum of a couple of months. Doesn’t matter that you intend to be married until 120… “Meah V’Esrim”. You must make a life changing decision in a few weeks.
Yes, this entire process is tiring and stressful for the parents and the young adults. B”H for those that are mature enough to let go of “the date” when they felt it wasn’t right. B”H for those parents that don’t pressure and push their children to marry if they are not wanting or ready and realize like one wise woman said to me, in Yiddish, “De AIBISHTER is the Gretste and Einige Shadchen.” (HaKadosh Baruch Hu is the biggest and only Shadchen and IY”H the bashert will come.)
In the meantime Enjoy the process and your children. They are a gift.
May HaKadosh Barush Hu give you the emunah and koach to go through this dating process with simcha and may your child find his/her bashert b’shaa tova.
(A mother of daughters and sons trying to find their bashert)
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