By Baila Sebrow

Question

I tried so hard to help my 32-year-old niece get remarried, and I don’t know what else to do for her. My niece is a young almanah with a beautiful little girl. Her husband was niftar a year and a half ago and she has not been on a date since his petirah. She was ready to remarry a few months after his petirah, and our family thought she would have an easy time since there aren’t as many young women who are almanos as women who are divorced. We always thought that would make her stand out more.

I called a well-known shadchan as soon as she was ready to start dating, and she told me that my niece should call her. My niece called this lady right away and sent the requested information. The shadchan never called back. This happened more than a year ago.

I finally had enough, and I picked up the phone and called the shadchan to really let her have it. She told me that she tried but was not able to find anyone who wants to go out with my niece. What a lie! All my niece wants is a nice, heimishe man up to 35 years old who can take care of her and support her beautiful little girl, and this big shot shadchan can’t find her even one man to go on a date with? She’s lying. I told the shadchan that I don’t believe her, and she should try harder to think of ideas. I wasn’t letting her off that easily!

You would not believe what this shadchan said. All of a sudden, the shadchan became chutzpahdik and told me that since my niece is overweight and does nothing for her appearance, if she wants a man around her age, she will either have to lose weight or take someone older.

I was ready to slam down the phone on her, but instead I gave it to her but good!

My niece is nebach an almanah. She shouldn’t have to waste time going to the gym or a diet program for a date. That’s nonsense. She’s not some young girl from seminary or like the divorced women who make themselves look better than they did when they were married. Hasn’t she been through enough?

Response

My deep condolences to your niece on the loss of her husband. Yes, your niece has tragically been through more than enough. Losing a spouse is different from the fracture of a marriage by divorce or from someone who has not yet been married. The pain is unique and gnawingly deep, and if the marriage was a happy and successful one, it can make her feel as though she was cheated by destiny. That alone can be overbearingly distressing. She now faces the burden of comforting and raising her beautiful child all by herself, until she finds her zivug sheini, iy’H.

While people are halachically obligated to treat an almanah with extra sensitivity, when it comes to finding a shidduch, she becomes a candidate like everyone else in this parashah. The young men who are viewing her profile amongst profiles of other women (divorced, widowed, or never-married) are choosing what appeals to them. Whether you think it is right or wrong, they choose who to date, and they do not give preferential selection because she is widowed. It is not a matter of what feels fair. It is a matter of reality.

Nobody can force another person to go on a date, and nobody can force the type of man your niece is searching for to go on a date with her. Verbally abusing the shadchan and upsetting her is not going to help your niece’s cause in finding a shidduch. Based on what you shared with me, I believe her biggest impediment right now might even be you! Do you realize that not only will this shadchan feel no inclination to offer shadchanus services to your niece, but I doubt she will feel inclined to recommend her to any other shadchan either?

I believe that you would do a huge service to your niece to get somebody else in the family to advocate for her in shidduchim. I’m not telling you to not be at all involved in the process, but it would be best if somebody else would deal with the public-relations aspect of it.

It is clear that you are coming from a place of love and concern for your niece, so while you can’t handle this well, your intentions are still admirable. It is therefore important that you — and anybody else in the family who is on the same team to help her — gain an understanding of how the process works. I will give you a brief depiction of the shidduch scene for those seeking remarriage. But before I do that I want you to know that whatever the shadchan said to you in response to whatever you said to her should not be condoned if she spoke in an insulting manner. That is not only unprofessional, but also immature. She probably allowed her emotions to get carried away during that altercation between the two of you, which is why I stressed that you need to find somebody else in the family to handle it.

Women who seek remarriage, whether they are young or older, are in a competitive spot if they seek a man who is willing to “take care” of them. The demand is high and the supply is low. Those who have been on the dating scene for a period of time begin to accept that there is a low supply of such men these days. When you say that divorced women work on their appearance so that they look better than when they were previously married, there is nothing wrong with that. They are just trying to put what they consider their best foot forward in order to have an opportunity to date the type of man they prefer.

If your niece is overweight and she is happy with her overall appearance, that is her business and nobody else’s. It could be that her late husband told her that she is beautiful the way she is, and that still sticks with her. She should not feel compelled to change for any man if that is not what she wants. The shadchan, though not diplomatically, might have meant that there are older men who would marry a younger woman regardless of the way she puts herself together. In all honesty, that is true. If she is a popular shadchan, as you say, then she surely fields phone calls from older men who claim to be wealthy, and they request a much younger woman (even with children) whom they vow to support and take care of.

The fact that your niece is looking for a man up to the age of 35 who is willing to take upon himself the financial responsibility of taking care of her and her child will be more challenging, realistically. That does not mean that it is impossible, and if that is what she wants and refuses to give up anything from her shidduch requirements, she might need to be a bit more patient.

What I find baffling is why you have been waiting for this particular shadchan to produce a date for your niece. It’s not like you are living in a shtetl in Europe more than 100 years ago, where one shadchan took care of everybody. If this shadchan didn’t call your niece with a suggestion, there were likely two reasons. Reason number one could have been that the men she redt your niece to might have declined her. Or reason number two, a popular shadchan gets inundated with calls, texts, and e-mails from people seeking a shidduch for themselves or on behalf of somebody. This shadchan might have been so overwhelmed that if she tried with one or two men and she was not successful, your niece’s profile might have gone to the back burner. Unless you are dealing with a shadchan who sits at a desk in front of a computer from 9–5 getting paid to make shidduchim, you will need to be patient as well as gracious to the person who is giving of him/herself to help the klal.

I will say it again — somebody else in the family needs to handle this for your niece, and, afterwards, it’s of great importance to retain a shadchan who is not as popular, and therefore less busy, to devote extra time to the cause of finding her a match. I also recommend, for the benefit of your niece, that you find a way to make peace with the shadchan you offended, even if she will never help her find anybody. We live in small world, and the frum community is smaller than you think; you don’t need any negativity left hanging. My final suggestion is that since your niece is 32, accepting a man only up till age 35 might be narrowing her possibilities. A bit more flexibility on her part can go a long way in helping her achieve building another bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael.

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 5townsforum@gmail.com.

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