Thursday, October 25, 2018

Let's start with the Shidduch Crisis.

There have been many suggestions to help alleviate the Shidduch Crisis.  Many well meaning people have spent a lot of time and money to help.  Almost everybody has some opinion on how to solve it.  Well, short of using a shotgun, I don't really have a solution.  But I haven't fully discounted the shotgun yet.  

What I do have are some thoughts that I have accumulated over the years of being a parent and having married off a few kids (and some more to go, B'ezras/t Hashem) that might help some people with the dating process.  Perhaps a few people will agree with them and it will help. Some are for the younger crowd, some for the older, some for the more yeshivish and some for the modern.  Enough unsolicited advice for everyone.  I'm not ready to hang up a "dating/life coach" shingle but the fact that we have people doing this is an indication that some things and/or people need some fixing.  So let's begin.

Thought #1
For a few years, as my oldest boy was nearing the dating age, there were discussions about how the system works.  A while back, at least in the Yeshivish crowd, it became the proper etiquette for the boy to not call the girl directly for the first date and maybe more. The shadchan would play telephone tag with the young man and young lady to find a mutually acceptable date and time.  This seemed quite absurd to me and certainly not very efficient.  I used to debate this with my son.  How is it that these two people are old enough to date and get married yet not mature enough to talk on the phone?  It's not like the boy has to call the girl and ask her IF she would please go out with him.  It's already arranged!  My son and daughter would reply that it's not tznius'dik to talk on the phone. To which I would answer with what I considered blatantly obvious. Isn't talking in person more personal than talking on the phone.  This went on for a while.  Then my son finally spoke to one of his Roshei Ha'Yeshiva about dating and asked him this question. You've got to sit down before you hear his reply.  "Do you know why boys don't call - because they are chickens!"

Needless to say, my son was shocked.  But he had the sense to see the humor in it and how this was another example of frumkeit replacing menshlechkeit.  Some just assumed that if a Rosh Ha'Yeshivah suggested for one particular boy that the shadchan arrange the date, there must be some frum reason behind it.  And, then it went from there.  Everyone had to jump on the frum bandwagon.  

I never got around to having him speak with his Rosh HaYeshiva about just maybe trying to turn these chickens into men.  Even mice would be an improvement for some.  But why do we keep lowering the bar?  If they aren't ready to talk to a young lady, let them prepare.  Let them practice.  Let them write it down.  Just like any other important interview you will eventually have in life.  I'll help.  Here is a short sample conversation between a fictitious bochur named Chaim and his potential match named Sara.  You can cut this out and keep it in your wallet.

Chaim: "Hello, this is Chaim.  May I please speak with Sara?"
(if house phone: "One moment, I will see if she is available") but eventually, "This is Sara".
Chaim: "Good evening, Sara, (repeat "this is Chaim" if she did not answer the phone).  I hope you had a good day.  Is this a good time to speak?"  
Sara: "Yes"
Chaim: "Thank you very much for agreeing to go out with me.  I would like to find a mutually agreeable time for our date.  My schedule is very flexible as the Yeshiva allows me to date and miss seder whenever I want.  Do you have such flexibility?"
Sara: "No, I have a real job.  It would be best if we can go out over the weekend because sometimes I am tired after a long work day and commute and I would like to be at my best for our date."
Chaim: "I see.  I guess I can try to fit you into my dating schedule.  I just wish the shadchan would have told me about this 'work' thing.  Is Motzei Shabbos at 7pm acceptable?"
Sara:  "Well, I think I might need more than 15 minutes after Shabbos to get ready."
Chaim:  "Oh, how about 7:15?"
Sara:  "Maybe 8pm would be best."
Chaim:  "Ok, thank you.  Looking forward to meeting you."
Sara:  "Likewise, have a good night and a Good Shabbos"
Chaim:  "To you too.  Good night".

Wasn't that easy?  I could draw up a flowchart for different responses, but that would have to be for a follow up article.  And if you really need such a flowchart, please make sure the shadchan sets you up with the 'mother' type.  But that's another topic.

What do you think?

(coming next - conversing on your shidduch date)


  1. I like your style. especially your consideration for getting a shotgun

  2. While you make logical points, I would like to share two experiences, one coming from my own shidduch dating experience and the other from being the shadchan making the calls back and forth. They may not directly argue your points, but may share a different perspective.

    First, when I started dating, I would get very nervous for the beginning of the date and then after a couple minutes, I would calm down and be able to maintain conversation for hours. Seeing the other person and reading their reactions made conversation easier for me. I don't think I ever had a hard time conversationally. (I would like to think that I got "really good" at dating.) However, for those first few minutes, I would be very nervous.

    On a few occasions, I called the girl to set up my own date, and I was so nervous that my mind would basically try to remember what I rehearsed instead of actually having a conversation with the girl. Looking back now, it seems silly. But as a boy in his young 20s who had limited interactions with girls for his whole life, that was just my reaction. So yes, that may strengthen your argument that boys are chickens, but I don't think it's just as simple as the older generation telling the boys to get over it. Some boys have a lot of trouble with it, and being that we haven't grown up as they have, it's harder for us to preach to them how they should do it.

    Second, as a shadchan, I was once making calls back and forth setting up dates after the couple had gone out on 4 or 5 dates already. The girl wanted the boy to take over, but the boy was hesitant. I kept trying to get him to set up the dates, but I understood from talking to him, that he had big questions about whether the girl was for him. Due to his uncertainties, he probably figured that he may have to break up with her soon. The break up conversation for him was the one he was trying to avoid. He didn't care about setting up the date. He was perfectly ok with that, but once I was out of the picture, he would have to let the girl down, and that was an awkward conversation he wanted to avoid. Again, that may chalk up to boys being chickens again, but I think there is much more to it.

    I once broke up with someone during my trip to visit her out of state. Because I was in her town, she did the driving, and after we discussed breaking up, she barely said a word to me the rest of the ride. I would try to make some light conversation and she would barely talk. But my point is things get messy and because we have limited contact with the opposite sex, sometimes people get attached too fast. Therefore, maybe a shadchan to go between is appropriate.

  3. Isn't it the job of parents/rebbe's to teach kids how to do things? Learning to talk to a stranger is a skill that needs to be learned. Unless it is a special case, someone looking to get married should not be protected like a baby.

    Same sort of goes for a breakup conversation. After a certain number of dates, I think the man/woman deserve to be talked to by other party. The number is not fixed but once the relationship becomes a bit personal - that is the time each party owes the other a personal 'good-bye'. If you were going to be fired, would you want your boss' secretary to tell you while he went on vacation?

    I am definitely in favor of a shadchan as a go-between for difficult issues that come up. And maybe the boy (in this case) could ask the shadchan if he/she knows if the girl would prefer breaking up in person or not. That might seem to be a strange question but I think the 'other' side deserves the courtesy here. This is less of an issue of 'being chicken' than courtesy. If the girl thinks things are going well, then it is rude to just brush her off after a 4-5 dates. If the girl is also having questions, then it won't be so difficult.

    I am not impressed by a boy who will only go out again if he is guaranteed to avoid an awkward conversation. Is that mentchlach? If you wrote "because he didn't want to hurt the girl", that would be different. Not the same as "wanting to avoid awkwardness".

    I think you made a tactical mistake in breaking up with a girl and then having her drive you home. Maybe it would have been better to start the discussion when she was dropping you off.

  4. I completely agree with you regarding the break up conversation. My main point in both situations is that in the yeshivish world we are taught at a young age to not Talk to girls. Which means that when it does come time to talk to girls when we are older, people can be nervous or awkward. All the teaching from parents or rabbeim will not change that. Yes, some people are naturally charismatic and they won't have a problem. But some Boys are more shy and awkward and all the training in the world won't change that when they are thrust in a situation that is not only new for them but with someone who they have been taught for years should be avoided.
    In regards to the breakup with a ride after, it was a discussion that wasn't planned. We were talking and things came out that made it obvious that we had to talk. Waiting wasn't an option.

  5. Looks like we mostly agree so we can leave it there. But I still believe that unless the boy has an ABNORMAL fear of talking to the girl on the phone, it is the boy's responsibility to mature - and the parents/shadchan/rebbe/whoever's responsibility to help him. Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for the next post.

    1. Maybe the point of contention is that you believe overcoming shyness or fear of a situation that you have never been in is a matter of simply maturing. And my point is that it's not simply maturing. It's psychological and getting older or learning more doesn't necessarily change one's fear. Look forward to your next post

    2. One last comparison. It's the same way as someone getting nervous before a test in school. Does being nervous help them do better? No. If I told them to not be nervous and tried to teach them to not be nervous, it probably wouldn't help either. It's not about maturing. Its psychological.

    3. OMG - you must be a leftist 'I need my safe space' person. Go watch some videos of Jordan Peterson. If someone goes to a psychologist and complains that 'this' thing makes them nervous - any psychologist 'worth their salt' (quoting him) will absolutely try to desensitize them and not tell them to run away from it. Of course, that might take time etc. But the concept is exactly that - prepare, practice, learn. That will absolutely reduce one's fear. Unless there is something 'wrong' with the patient and those are special cases.

      So if you prepare for a test and know the information well, you will not be nearly as nervous as if you did not. You don't teach them 'not be be nervous'. You teach them what to do - ie. practice and prepare.

    4. You are oversimplifying based on what you believe the case should be and are not looking at how other people can view things different than you. I am not a leftist or a safe space person as you say. I am just someone who realizes that other people are different than me and I try to take their feelings into account instead of dictating how life should be according to my views.
      I was a great student. Studied like crazy. Knew the material backwards and forwards and I still got nervous for a test. Did it make sense? Of course not. I aced every single test but I still got nervous. And when I first started dating, I was the same way at least in the beginning. My nerves calmed down after a few minutes just like when taking a test. Looking back I know it was me being crazy but that's just the way it was. And no psychologist could take away the nerves of the first few min of dating. Practice did help aka more dating. But I don't think you're advocating practicing for shidduch dating by practicing with other girls.
      My point basically is that if 20% of people are nervous about these things, or 10%, or even 5%, we should give them the option to use the shadchan to set up the date. Not everyone has to use them if they don't want to. But if someone feels uncomfortable by it and would like the shadchan, I think we should try to take their feelings into account instead of saying everyone should do it the way I determine is best and if you are nervous about it, then you need psychological help before you start dating because you aren't mature.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. I was actually wondering how you would react to being called a leftist safe-spacer.

      This is not being done on an individual level. This is something that some parents/rebbes/shadchanim are telling the kids in black hat circles to do nowadays. Do you believe that these mentors should or should not be instructing the kids how to behave?

      If you agree that these mentors should be instructing kids, then the question is are they right for instructing on this particular item?

      I believe that of course, mentors should be instructing. That is their function - by definition. In this particular instance, I think they are wrong - for the large majority of kids. And you seem to agree with that (your 20, 10, 5% argument). So if we agree in the large majority of cases, then that is pretty good.

      I would point out further that the phone call does not have to be very long at all. In fact, I would suggest that the first phone call be pretty short. Maybe not much longer than the one I wrote up (minus the sarcasm, of course). A few more pleasantries and maybe a discussion on where they will go. How many boys are not capable of preparing and making a phone call like that? My guess is VERY few. So if we disagree in just the very few cases, I can't ask for much more than that.

      Even further - I will agree with you. If indeed, you have such a person - then by all means, have the shadchan set up the date. After meeting on a date, the girl can decide if the boys fear of making the phone call is important to her. And I would not suggest that a girl not hold this against the boy too much at all. In the scheme of things, it is not very important. If it is a indication of the boy being very shy, that will be apparent on the date. If it is just a phone thing, then it will be an unimportant idiosyncrasy in the concept of choosing a mate.

      Are we now in complete agreement?

    7. For the most part, I thought we were in agreement the whole time. I was just objecting to the argument that people who do not fit in with your view are labeled as immature. I didn't think that was fair. I was aware that they are the minority but that doesn't mean they should be disregarded.
      Oh and in regard to your leftist safe space comment, if you really want a response, then I would say how about you try arguing my point on its merits instead of trying to label me as someone who you can't relate to and whose point doesn't deserve discussion. That's what I would have said 😀 But then you went on to make a point so I didn't say that.

  6. So what do you call a bochur who, ostensibly, is ready to get married but can't call the girl for a few minutes to set up the date?

  7. I think a large part of this is the extreme separation our communities impose upon the genders. Young men and young women cannot even be guests at the same shabbos host at the same time. Perhaps a solution to the shidduch crisis is having young men and young women not be so extremely separated and feel slightly more comfortable with each other.

    1. If I suggest that, they might run me out of town - LOL! I'm not even so sure that is a good idea for the younger crowd. I know that there are some who teach their boys not to even look at a woman - even an older married one. But there is a difference between looking at them when you are talking to them as that is a mentchlach thing to do. Perhaps they should be taught not to 'gaze' at women. That I could see (pun intended).