By Baila Sebrow
I read all your articles, and a recent one really hit home for me because I have a unique problem. I feel like I’m an imposter. I went to the best yeshivas all my life, and I come from a big well-known family, but nobody knows who I really am.
I don’t wear tzitzis. I don’t daven three times a day. I don’t learn, except once in a while. I don’t wait six hours to eat milchig after fleishigs. I don’t text anyone on Shabbos (because I don’t want anyone to know) but I use my phone to get on the internet. Sometimes I even turn the light off in my room if I forget before Shabbos, and I adjust the temperature in my room if it gets too hot or cold, even if it is in the middle of Shabbos.
I do consider myself to be frum, but in my own way. I get set up on dates all the time, but I can’t connect with any girl, because she’s either too frum or too modern. I can’t date someone modern, because I have nothing in common with girls who went to a modern school. I don’t want anyone who went off the derech, because those girls are totally messed up in many ways.
I once confided in a rebbe I used to learn with, and he also does shidduchim. I thought that he would help me, but all he did was tell my parents. Maybe he did that because he thought I would become more frum. I don’t know, but I was so embarrassed. I told my parents that it’s not true, because it would kill them. They still don’t know, and after what happened I will never tell anyone ever again.
So I’m writing to you anonymously, because I don’t want anyone to know my business anymore. I want to get married, but I’m not sure how to go about it. I want to find a girl who will accept me for who I am. I can’t be what I am not. Aside from this problem, I’m a very with-it, out-of-the-box guy. I have friends and I’m super-close with my family (I live at home even though most guys at 28 have their own apartment). There is nothing wrong me. This is just the way I am, because that’s how I feel most like myself.
Many years ago, here in the United States, it was not unusual for people to place much less emphasis on hashkafah. There were Orthodox families whose focal point when looking for a shidduch was that the young man or young lady be traditional. When it did occur that someone with practices similar to yours got married, he or she would sometimes end up moving in either direction hashkafically. Typically, when a man found a woman who was emotionally compatible with him, their lifestyle as a couple often followed the wife’s hashkafah. If she identified as traditional, that is how they would live their life, or if the woman was more vigilant in religious practice, they would develop their path in that direction. There have also been cases where each spouse ended up following his or her own way, and, for some, such marriages succeeded.
The problem with your situation and why that cannot ever work for you, regardless of the era we are presently in, is because you are living a double life. You do not present the real you.
Your situation is more common than you realize. There are plenty of young people who use their phone privately at home on Shabbos, right after they finished shaking hands with their rav who praises them regarding observance because he assumes nothing different.
Not too long ago, I had a situation where I sent what appeared to be a very frum young couple out on a date, and the guy felt so comfortable with the young lady that on the first date he disclosed to her that he uses his phone on Shabbos, amongst other things. When she told her parents, they were horrified, and understandably they felt deceived. The young man totally misrepresented himself to me, and, ultimately, he did not do himself any favors. But I get why he felt that he could not be honest with me, and I get where you are coming from as well.
You are caught between a rock and a hard place. A mainstream modern girl has a vastly different upbringing than yours, and just because she is modern does not mean that she will see eye-to-eye with you on issues of religious practice. She could be modern in dress but otherwise wants to follow halachah, and she may be liberal-minded in other areas, which, unsurprisingly, you may not be. A girl who is more frum is surely not even close to being on your page. I will also agree that a girl who went off the derech could have other things going on in her life that may not be compatible with who you really are.
From what you are saying, I am inclined to believe that you would probably be best suited with a young lady who has an educational background similar to yours but was raised in a home where the family was more lax in the same areas as you are. They do exist (in larger numbers than you are aware of). But the only way you will ever find such a girl is by being open about who you are.
That you are close with your family and concerned about hurting your parents is a wonderful testament to your character. I agree with you that there is no reason to cause them any pain by disclosing how you really practice Yiddishkeit. There is nothing to be gained by it, except that it will create tension and even a family rift. Shadchanim, in your case, are absolutely not the route you should take in finding your bashert. With the best of intentions, and as hard as they may try, there are those who will still not be able to compute who you truly are and find a plausible shidduch for you.
I recommend that you look into dating apps where you can describe how you identify with regard to religiosity. Moreover, you will have the opportunity to write a paragraph about yourself that will further define and illustrate exactly who you are, where you are coming from, and the type of woman you would like to meet for marriage. I have a hunch that you will be pleasantly surprised to find that your profile will be in high demand. As soon as this pandemic is over, try social events that cater to a diverse crowd of singles. There you might catch the eye of somebody who is similar to you in hashkafah and practice.
The world of shidduchim has become like a series of cookie-cutters. It is expected that when somebody seeks to get married, he or she needs to fit precisely into one of the designated molds. It is very unfortunate that such a perspective has become the recognized and accepted method. So when it happens that singles are honest about who they really are, there is no place for them. Consequently, people end up lying to themselves and everyone around them so that they can fit into one of the cookie-cutter designs in order to get married. However, a person can live a lie only for so long before the truth comes out.
There are countless brief marriages that have ended in divorce because one spouse deliberately misrepresented himself or herself during the dating period. And there are cases such as what you described, where you confided in somebody you ought to have trusted to guide and assist you in finding your bashert, and instead he betrayed you by shaming you. I will not give him the benefit of doubt that he told your parents for the purpose of getting you closer to Yiddishkeit. If he were a genuine talmid chacham, he would have had more knowledge and better judgement to address your predicament in a manner that would have brought you to desire full observance on your own accord while you find your happiness.
I cannot conclude my response to you without touching upon a huge issue in the dating process of shidduchim—namely, lies and misrepresentations and those who promote such behaviors. The reason I am bringing this up is because I fear that you may one day come upon a person you respect who will encourage you to do something that will potentially backfire. Almost every day I hear from singles who tell me about someone they respect who advised them that it is OK not to disclose something that could prove vital or to wait until feelings are developed.
Recently a woman contacted me with a question of whether she should disclose to the man she is dating about her Shabbos texting habits and switching on and off lights. A person she holds in high regard told her not to say anything, and that she should just stop if she marries him! That is dangerous advice, and I told her so.
If you ever come across anyone—and it does not matter what title he or she holds—who tells you not to divulge everything about yourself, remember that at the end of the day, lies in a budding relationship can be as lethal as playing with matches near a gasoline canister.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to email@example.com. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.