By Malkie Gordon Hirsch

No matter what, the conversation always gravitates to shidduchim.

It starts out innocently enough, discussing the kids, their schools, schedules, and other unsavory details the school year brings along with it, and at some point, someone will bring up the daughter of a friend who isn’t finding success in the dating world.

At that point, the conversation snowballs into mentioning more people than I can keep track of.

The ages range from early twenties to many decades past that, and we spend the time attempting to operate the world’s largest memory game. You know, the one where you’ve got cards face-down on a table and you keep turning over two at a time to see if you can get a match.

But the only difference is that once you think about a potential match and start letting your mind get too far ahead to scenes of their impending nuptials, you assume it’ll be a cinch convincing the singles in question to meet.

But that’s when things get complicated. And more times than not, it doesn’t go as seamlessly as planned.

Boys have “their people” who manage the swarms of interested eligible ladies and keep an order to their potentially busy dating life.

In my twenties I worked in Manhattan as an artist’s agent, where it was my job to fill my roster of talents’ schedules with interesting and well-paying jobs. I’d market their portfolios to photo studios, and receive calls from different brands and editorials, optioning their time, and managing their calendar.

I’d give the artist’s preferential job a first option until they confirmed, and any backup inquiries would receive a second option, and that way I’d be assured that they’d have work, regardless of the outcome.

And now I realize what it must be like to be a boy in today’s shidduch world. Of course, they’d need an “agent” troubleshooting their dating life; how else could they do their regular day-to-day of being a person with a job and life outside dating?

But of course, with that, they’re giving up the opportunity of making decisions about life matters that should be solely up to them.

It’s desensitizing them to the concept that behind these résumés are all real people with lives and accomplishments and feelings.

They’ve got hobbies and families and they’re actual people behind the bullet points and pictures that are supposed to accurately surmise the scope of who they are but can’t really ever do that. And with all that, there’s still plenty of rejection.

The problem is that the boys know that there’s no shortage of interested female prospects, so they keep rifling through until they find the one who’s “perfect” for them.

I truly wish them luck with that.

I’ve spoken to girls who won’t date boys from certain boroughs, because “I’ve dated from there before and, trust me, I know the type and they’re not for me.”

The voice inside my head is trying to figure out a way of convincing her that not dating anyone from Flatbush might not help her cause, but I know this will be a fight I won’t win, so I leave it alone and try to look for boys in other more desirable neighborhoods.

Essentially, both parties are making it increasingly difficult for others to set them up on dates.

And maybe they don’t need setting up.

Maybe I’m just a romantic at heart and want to help people who don’t want the help, even when they convince others that they do.

There are mixed messages being sent, where they sound convincing about wanting to commit but don’t back up those claims with action.

I recall in my younger years that when my mother would refer to her friend who was single and never married, I didn’t need to know which friend it was, because there was only one. I knew immediately who she was talking about.

It was as uncommon as divorce was those many years ago, when I had one classmate from a divorced home.

And today, the high rate of divorce and the number of eligible men and women in their thirties, forties, and beyond is way more commonplace than ever before. Before résumés and advancements in technology, before all the ways we made the business of setting men and women up more streamlined and orderly, in reality it’s had the opposite effect. It’s created a materialistic culture where we focus and emphasize on the wrong things.

It’s made things way harder for two people to agree to go out for coffee. People aren’t willing to take chances like they used to.

They’re not willing to take a chance with someone who might sound different than what they think they need. They’re not willing to realize that maybe there’s a higher power that knows better than they do.

The parents making weddings and the intended couples themselves are making simchas with separate seating, making it harder for men and women to mingle in an appropriate fashion, the way it was done for years, before this age of technology and résumés, where we take each other apart with a fine-tooth comb and leave nothing to chance.

Shadchanim are the power players who determine a lot more than they should. Money makes all the difference, and now it’s no longer something that somebody does because seeing happy couples getting together is the main motivation.

Now it’s a business like any other. There’s panic purchasing when it comes to parents of younger daters debuting in the market. Kids are pushed into going out before they want to, and sometimes convinced to marry men or women who aren’t for them.

It’s no longer crazy to hear about a month-long marriage deteriorating in record time.

I could go on for pages on the way we’ve messed up this dating system to the point of no return.

It’s a combination of the wrong education being given in schools or at home, the lack of vulnerability daters are exhibiting thanks to the safety net of shadchanim and friends who do the talking for the daters but don’t express their feelings, and we’re on that constant hamster wheel of life, doing the same insane thing over and over—designing résumés that mean nothing, sending them out, following up, not hearing back, and causing our children to question whether they want to be part of a religious system that selects only certain types.

So what do we do from here? How do we make such a flawed system right again?

I think we need to normalize what it used to be like in previous generations, when men and women embarked on that stage of life when they wanted to find a spouse.

They went out and found each other in groups of friends, at events, and in an organic and more natural way. They spoke about feelings and practiced some good old-fashioned courage.

Sometimes, feelings were reciprocated and other times, they weren’t on the same page.

And rejection is just as important during a relationship stage as things going well.

It’s OK for our kids to have to do messy, scary things like talk about adult issues without a mediator.

We as parents must stop coddling and overprotecting kids who need to learn that life is comprised of many different stages, some of them less than ideal.

They need to reclaim ownership of who they are and what they want out of life, and only then will they finally know what to look for.

When I meet a couple and hear the story of how they met, and there were no résumés or intense back-and-forth phone calls or involvement from an entourage of dating coaches involved, I’m comforted by the fact that there are still people out there dating the way we were meant to.

It gives me hope that maybe one day, if we loosen our hold over something that should evolve naturally, we’ll come to a happy compromise where we can set up men and women with minimal involvement and let things run their course the way it’s always been meant to be.

Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, and a social media influencer.

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