Missy Older is “in the parsha.” Her friends are “in the parsha.” Some of her friends are already married. Many are engaged.
Some of our b’not bayit are in the parsha. Some of our b’nai bayit are in the parsha. In other words, in the life of my mishpacha, there is much dating, much awareness of the search for each of these young men and women’s bashert.
Meanwhile, Yours Truly, too, is involved in the shidduch scene. Not, has v’shalom looking; this year, b’ezrat Hashem, Computer Cowboy and I will be married for three decades. Rather, I’m trying to help. On the one hand, I hold to the belief that The Boss is, ultimately, in charge of whether a shidduch is successful or not. On the other hand, we, as a klal, and as individuals, are responsible to do our histadlut.
Although none of my studies, none of my life experiences, no amount of my learning, formal or informal, sacred or secular, prepared me adequately for what I’ve confronted in the world of shidduchim, this middle-aged mom, this former professor of communications and of sociology, this people person, this provider of large pots of chicken soup and of smaller plates of kugel, vacillates between worry and action. On cloudy days I am exasperated. On sunny days, I feel my trust restored.
I think that I often leave dating situations frustrated for several reasons. I see the unfortunate, i.e. unrealistic influence of mass media, the unfortunate, i.e. unprocessed accessibility provided by convergent media, and the generational progression of weakening interpersonal skills, as having swamped marriage’s lake. In short, personal expectations, social reinforcement of not viable values, and a more and more prevalent disregard for the practice of rudimentary civilities make it increasingly difficult for folks to find their mates.
Consider the spitfire young lady who wanted warmth, then rejected a suitor because he affirmed her and did so regularly. Consider the young man who was “ready” to get married, but could not articulate any preferences he had about work, about pastimes, or about religious observation. For the former, I noted some new data, on my Excel sheet, about what she actually wanted. For the later, I gave him some intrapersonal communication homework.
Then there was the fellow with the “oops;” oops, he forgot to tell me that he wanted to go out with a girl with certain physical qualities and would not even venture meeting a girl who possessed others. ‘tis a pity I didn’t partner him with the gal who “didn’t quite remember” that she wanted someone with a particular capacity for earning. In truth, I turn down more folk than I match because I refuse to put together a twosome just because one is “a skirt” and one is “trousers.” However, a mom can have flights of the imagination. Worry not; such fantasy does not get beyond my brain; Mr. Oops and Miss Fiduciary were never introduced.
It’s not so much that I wish potential partners would derive a “correct” list of desired attributes as it is I wish they would work to improve their ability to communicate to third parties, to would-be facilitators, more specifically what they seek and more specifically who they perceive themselves to be. While over the years (I helped with shidduchim in Hutz l’Aretz, too), I have given mussar talks to a small number of individuals, almost always such loving lectures were “inspired” by a young man or a young woman treating of a date or a potential date without basic courtesy, i.e. responding to another human being with ignorance or with arrogance. I don’t need to agree with or even to like someone else’s ideas about what makes an ideal or even a “good enough” spouse; nonetheless, I do need the folk I help to manifest minimal good manners.
On the flip side, there are those persons who are both sincere and tenacious. They have data sheets about themselves prepared, i.e. they have their references in order and they have given enough thought to dating to actually have committed to paper notions about themselves and about the type of person for whom they are looking. As well, such candidates regularly use such “arcane” terms as “please” and as “thank-you” and tend to be careful not to engage in loshon hara or rechilus.
This group of young men and women, additionally, “reports back” within a day or two of a date, even if it is to ask how to: break off a relationship that didn’t click, introduce a friend, in their stead, to the other person, or get a friend involved in our particular shidduch circle. These folks call or answer their (potential) dates promptly, make an effort to have something to talk when they meet, and bother to comb their hair and to tie their shoelaces (incredulous as it may be, not all candidates act accordingly).
Preparedness, though it works for scouts, doesn’t guarantee finding one’s help opposite. Less exacting parties seem to have equal success in locating their husband or wife as do ones that make detailed accounts. At day’s end, it is not what one does, or who one is, i.e. the nature of someone’s middot, that brings a match to the chuppah. Rather, when Hashem wills it, it happens.
So, count me among the individuals who work at this imperfect means for putting partners together. Count me, as well, as among the folk who, in the interim, would appreciate a tad more mindfulness in these efforts.