By Malkie Gordon Hirsch Magence

You know those couples that can finish each others’ sentences, due to hearing the same story roughly 20,000 times? It occurred to me that I was quickly becoming that person, as I’d repeat the story while rolling my eyes (I’m an even better eye roller than story teller) as Jeremy recounted the various ways his children met their spouses, all without a phone call or résumé.

“One on an Eged bus and two in camp, we know,” I repeated in jest as he filled in parts of the story I hadn’t necessarily known.

But the important part of the conversation was brought up in the first place because we were talking about matchmaking, the unofficial favorite pastime of the Orthodox Jewish woman.

I’ve compared the matchmaking game (for lack of a better phrase, but certainly not the enjoyable variety) to the memory game, where you keep turning over 2 cards to see if a match could be made, but usually end up turning them back around since matches don’t happen that effortlessly.

But then I started wondering why that was, and it occurred to be that the only real obstacle (but also essential part of matchmaking) are the people involved.

People make everything more difficult. People that have a say in matters not pertaining to them make or break the chances of many happy futures. They complicate a system that could really organize and problem solve this new standard which many from various walks of observant life have adopted as their way of finding their life partners.

And while I don’t agree with the methods that many use, I can respect how overwhelming dating this way can get, keeping track of endless information of prospective matches instead of letting kids meet people in a more natural and organic way, like the way it used to be. Before we became more frum than intended.

Today, the new crop of daters thinks they can order what they want in a spouse as if they’d order a salad. No redheads, no shorter than 5 foot 4 and pictures with a group, her family, and maybe also a child to see how attentive and loving she seems.

In the picture.

Forget any issues that might have to be addressed in person, we need to make that résumé sparkle. It is the ultimate job interview, after all.

Because that’s what people look at. They look at the hair, outfit choice, the hat, the color of the shirt, even the slight difference in hashkafa. They don’t look at the person, their character, or glimpse into who they are as a human. They look at information that may or may not be biased or accurate.

And that’s where the alarmingly high divorce rate comes in. The misinformation, the promises that they were something they’re clearly not. The possibility that kids that age might change at various life stages. Groundbreaking, right? Because there are tomatoes in this salad and he specifically asked for no tomatoes.

Daters today have been raised in a dangerous world—a world of overabundance, of instant gratification, and of too many choices to feel confident in the one ultimately made and as a result, that prolongs the dating lives of many who can’t decide if this one is “the one.”

I do believe that classes on how to find, establish, and maintain healthy happy relationships should be part of a senior class curriculum in the schools where the majority of kids will use this method of dating. It’s more important than a book that’s been on the syllabus for 30 years.

Someone credible with the right professional background needs to tell these kids that your bashert is the person you choose. It’s not the one you learn about as a kid that’s predetermined when you’re born. That idea will overwhelm you when you question the probability of finding them.

It’s the one willing to do the work with you that’s the right one. The one you trust, and nurture, and practice selflessness with. The one you’re compatible with is your bashert.

The one whose emotional and physical qualities are attractive to you. The one you practice vulnerability with. The one you’re honest with who might still have habits you dislike. But the one who makes any annoying habit palatable because the goodness outweighs all that.

The knower of your quirks, anxieties, and secret fears. That is the person who becomes the one. Not the hair texture or the height or the garb. We’re all souls disguised in materialism that confuses the masses and causes us to emphasize things that aren’t important. Looks fade, clothes go out of style, but the person you worked hard being remains with you forever. Focus on that.

We need to help young daters navigate how to choose their partners. Teaching them that the work that goes into the relationship is what makes it a success, not the last name of his family.

The fluff that they see on a paper isn’t necessarily what they’ll see in front of them. We as people aren’t given enough credit for being complex beings that far surpass a short blurb. Marriage and relationships get better when two people learn how to communicate with one another.

When the parents, coaches, and matchmakers are distracted in their own lives, that’s when couples learn how to embark on this rest-of-life marriage thing. Cloaked in the discomfort of learning about someone else is the beautiful part of getting to know a person you enjoy being with.

Our method of dating is done in a veritable Petri dish, observed by the coaches, matchmakers, and parents, highly choreographed and highly unnatural. Venues are planned in advance, conversations are dissected after the fact, and usually someone is convinced to try again for another date. We’re not listening to them or taking their feelings into account. Then again, their brains aren’t even fully formed at the age we’re marrying them off, so many parents feel that need to hover and get a constant play by play. It makes for an unhealthy start to a relationship that should technically only have two people involved.

We won’t and never will act the way we do on dates and there’s a need for daters to be on their best behavior. How different do things look when kids are given the chance to interact in a non-threatening or judgmental way? Where they’re valued for just being themselves? Does a place like this exist anymore? If it doesn’t, it should. I want my kids to meet their spouses because they met them somewhere and like something they said or did. Because their friends have a girl they know. Because some people are really bad daters but really wonderful people.

I hope things change before my kids embark on this stage of life.

As someone who did this twice, I know what rejection feels like. I know what helplessness from parents looks like. I know what unhealthy messages are being broadcast to younger and older daters alike and it has to stop.

Here’s my TED Talk for this article. I hope you see something in here that resonates and causes a positive change:

1. Go out and meet people. Sit together at weddings and social events.

2. Take a chance even when you think you know best and what you need because G-d knows better. Say yes to someone who doesn’t fit the description you thought they would.

3. Give second chances if it went ok but you didn’t feel the stuff you watch in movies or read in books. That’s not real, your life is.

4. Be real and true to yourself and be proud of that person, knowing that you don’t have to change for anyone.

5. The person who is meant for you will appreciate the qualities that make you unique and different than anyone else.

6. Take ownership of your dating life. Don’t let anyone else dictate what is or isn’t important to you.

7. If you don’t want to go out again, say so. To your date.

8. If you had a good time, say so, then and there.

9. If you enjoy someone’s company, let them know, then and there.

10. You’re here for a reason and that’s not to be boxed into someone that a parent or coach or shadchan tell you to be. n

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

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