Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Convert Confessions: Why I'm Not Afraid of the Shidduch Crisis

Didn't you know there's a shidduch crisis going on? Young women are turning 22 without finding a suitable husband!

I'm not afraid of the big bad wolf known as the shidduch crisis.

For the uninitiated, what's a shidduch crisis? Shidduch means "a good match," and today, people say that everyone over ___ age (depends on your section of the orthodox world, but definitely once you've graduated college) is having the most terrible time finding a suitable marriage partner. The world became bigger, and now people are moving to new cities and being able to date outside their neighborhood. This has thrown the traditional matchmaking world (for lack of a better example, think of Fiddler on the Roof) into a tizzy. People now create "shidduch resumes" that list the "important" facts that any potential mate should see before agreeing to a first date.

Why I should be afraid of the shidduch crisis:

First off, I'm 26. That's already old in the shidduch market, and I could potentially be 30 before I begin dating! 30 is the real crisis point, particularly for women. Less so for men, but I'm not as familiar with that side of the story.

Second, matchmakers are increasingly using pigeonholes to classify their singles. The most quoted terrible example is the color of your tablecloth on Shabbat. (For the record, I don't use one.) Everyone seems to agree that this should not be a meaningful way to classify a potential marriage partner because it doesn't really mean anything. Yet people continue to ask, so matchmakers have to keep asking. The convert's problem with pigeonholes is that we can't even answer most of the questions!
  • Where did you go to seminary/yeshiva? (This is a dealbreaker for some! At least converts are more likely to have an answer for this than the other questions.)
  • Where did you go to summer camp?
  • Where do your parents daven?
  • Where do your siblings daven?
  • What kind of Jew did they marry?
Of course, there is the great shidduch resume equalizer: What's your dress size? ::Shudder::

Why the shidduch crisis doesn't worry me:

1) It seems to generally be a Frum from Birth problem. And since the FFB crowd is usually married by the end of college or shortly thereafter, I'm just not in that demographic. No younger men for me, thank you!

2) If someone thinks that the color of a tablecloth says something about my religious practice, then I'm completely fine with that guy removing himself from my pool of potential suitors. Similarly (and as noted in Is There a Stigma Against Convers? and Shabbat Shalom: the Dating Convert Edition), if people are unwilling to consider converts as marriage partners, I'm equally glad to not consider them.

3) The shidduch crisis is supposed to apply especially to people like me: "older singles." I'll be 27 this spring, and who knows when my conversion will be complete? Being "almost 30," I'm supposed to have a nearly impossible chance of getting married, if you listen to the whispers on the streets of Queens. Chances are, my dating pool will be primarily BTs (and maybe other converts, who knows??). I'm okay with that. And as I've mentioned before, I have a quirky and "strong" personality, so being a convert should be the least of the reasons for a potential match to reject me.

4) Further, I don't expect to use a professional matchmaker. I would; I think it would be fun. But then again, I really loved speed dating! I'm more adventurous than most daters. My perspective is that, if nothing else, a bad date translates into a hilarious story. However, I don't expect to get to the point that I'll be able to use a matchmaker. Friends are already compiling a list of eligible men for me, and my friends will wait to see if their picks are still available when my conversion is complete! (Fantasy football turned fantasy shidduch dating?) A lot of people get bothered or embarrassed by this kind of "assistance," but really, it's means a lot that people really want to help me find some happiness in this world. And fun too! Because I'm very open about who I am as a person, I've been blessed with several friends who mesh well with my values and qualities. Quite frankly, I trust these people, based on their good qualities and their knowledge of me, to suggest good matches to me.

5) It's just as likely that I will meet my beshert on my own. I'm actively involved in my own life (yet somehow still resemble a hermit, I don't get it!), and my Jewish involvement has already brought me to nice Jewish boys before. (Did I tell you that I met my last boyfriend because were were both regulars at afternoon minyan? It was mamish cute!)

And you know what are probably the bigger problems underlying the shidduch crisis?  Lack of self-esteem and out-of-whack priorities. And meddlers :)


In summary, I'm not afraid of the shidduch crisis. And if you're not crazy, you shouldn't be worried either. Dating is a pain, no matter the demographic, but your perspective can make it a lot more enjoyable! You cannot force the process, so there's no point in worrying about it. In many ways, it's just a continuation of the limbo of the conversion process. Have the patience to accept the things you cannot change. Be a zen dater :)

5 comments:

  1. I actually think matchmakers are a really good idea, and I might even want to work as one myself some day. I think it can be a problem if people expect too much from the matchmaker, though. A matchmaker can just introduce people who have agreed to meet, like a dating service. The matchmaker can't conjure up Mr. Right like a golem, guarantee that someone will get married, or do the work of building relationships for the singles.

    Also, some matchmakers are better than others, as could be said of any other profession. If a single goes to a matchmaker and finds that that person asks questions that are beside the point or doesn't respond to feedback, the single needs to take responsibility and look for another matchmaker. Even if a single does find a matchmaker who seems helpful, it would probably still be a good idea to ask friends for suggestions, go to singles events, or try dating websites. Just my two cents...

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  2. Another common wacky question is whether the candidate stacks plates on Shabbos. I've searched hard for a 'correct' answer to that one.

    Maybe the questions mean something to a significant number of people. But to me, asking someone to pick the top 3-5 adjectives that they feel describe them best is a futile exercise. Its a person here, not a vacuum cleaner.

    You may have seen this video doing the rounds:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1sZu1u3BMI

    I'm 21 and male - call me lucky. The fairer sex seem to have less of a stigma dating guys slightly older than them, while some guys I know have a HUGE aversion to it.

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  3. John: Frum Satire posted about stacking v. scraping the other day. Reading between the lines, it seems that stacking implies you're a poor housekeeper :)

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  4. You might want to worry. I am a convert myself and have only had 4 dates in the past 5 years. No one is willing to set me up and no one sees this as a problem. If you live out of town you might be screwed and left to grow old and be lonely. Jews can be very mean and hurting so be very careful. Do not think that shiddichim is going to be not harder for you because your a convert it will be for sure.

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    Replies
    1. Originally posted: December 6, 2011 at 5:49 PM

      Anonymous, thank you for your concern. Of all the possible reasons for someone to fear dating me, being a convert is not the most pressing. Surprisingly (even to me, in retrospect), I wrote this post before moving to NYC. Being here now, I know convert-ness won't stop me because my friends are already making their lists of who they want to set me up with. I will be relying on my friends, not shadchanim, who have generally shown themselves to be superficial idiots. In general, I don't take crap, and I don't let people give me crap. If someone wants to opt out of the convert dating pool, I WANT them to opt out. It saves me time. Don't buy into their drivel. Because once you do, they've already beaten you, and that tanks self-confidence. And self-confidence is the most attractive quality in a person!

      I hate that people are pushing NYC and LA for singles, but I now see why. I can meet lots of single, observant Jews while living how I always would. I don't have to make any special effort. But I know many people who've had success on SYAS and Frumster, so perhaps try those out? Even my dad and stepmom met on Yahoo! Personals, long before online dating was cool!

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