“The Perfect Guy” Introduction
In last week’s issue (“The Illusion of the Perfect Guy: One young man’s perspective on the shidduch crisis”), a 25-year-old single man writes of his and his friends’ frustration over their negative experiences in dating more than 100 girls. He describes himself as being educated—holding several degrees and pursuing another one from a reputable graduate school. He further states that he is good-looking; he cooks, bakes, cleans, does laundry, irons, and fixes things around the house; is a musician; can talk about any subject; is in touch with his emotions yet able to control them; and is open-minded yet able to admit when wrong.
He feels that educators in seminary are creating the situation that results in girls seeking to marry “the perfect guy” and offers some possible reasons for the existence of the shidduch crisis. This young man feels that girls, in their quest to find a perfect guy, are too quick to reject good guys and would otherwise be married. He elaborates on a few personal experiences as well as those he has read about.
Baila Sebrow Responds
One of the earliest recollections within the recesses of a girl’s memory are of the game called “house.” The objective of the game is for the girl to act the part of Mommy as she tends to her make-believe children, her dolls. The little girl will further busy herself in her toy kitchen, preparing dinner for her phantom husband.
Little girls grow up to become big girls who enter the shidduch system. Regardless of their professional aspirations, what a girl wants most—what her heart craves and cries out for—is to be a wife and mother. Every normal girl wants to get married. And anything that inhibits that desire, for whatever reason, will be a cause of emotional distress for her.
All who are involved in shidduch dating will attest that the system has many faults. We can all come up with various reasons for some of the dysfunctions and easily start pointing fingers. But that will only create divisions between the singles who are dating and those who are trying to help them. True, people developed the expectation of résumés and have been known to cite a list of qualifications for the perfect mate. However, the enforcers of these proclaimed rules are the people who are involved in our dating society. Yes, the educators, shadchanim, and those seeking a shidduch are going along with the established rules, and consequently are acquiescing to the problem that has become a crisis, not just for the girls but for the boys as well.
You talk about girls seeking perfection. The reality is not that they are seeking the perfect guy; rather, these girls are unrealistic about the type of guy available to them in their own situations.
When educating their students about dating and marriage, some seminary educators fail to focus on individualized family situations and dynamics. They do not present case histories varying in circumstances to advise their students, based on each case, what the focus of their individual search in a shidduch should be. As a result, girls who begin their search after seminary may do so with unrealistic expectations.
The educators quote halachic sources, as you say, and they are correct in doing so. However, it would be beneficial if they would also illustrate examples that would fit various needs. Advising every girl to marry a boy who will immerse himself in Torah and the beauty such a union attains is an admirable notion. However, there are girls for whom marrying such a boy would not be feasible, because of their personal situations and the homes they come from. Not just because of financial constraints, but also as a result of being raised and educated from modern backgrounds. The reality for those girls is that some learning boys might not quickly agree to date them.
To validate some of your points, you are correct in saying that a guy who is too funny might be rejected. A particular girl may consider him a person who makes fun of others. As a result, this girl might quickly dismiss a very humorous guy, believing that he might be the sort of person who involves himself in leitzanus, a halachic violation. On the other hand, a more laid-back type of guy or one who is not funny may not work for her personality if she is a witty, happy-go-lucky type of girl. That, in essence, goes against the mirror-image qualification you talk about that she is told to seek in a husband. Girls are in fact advised to seek husbands who are similar to themselves in personality.
This is true as well in the case you describe of the girl you dated who wants to marry a guy who will not allow her to wear pants. She obviously seeks a guy who will feel the same way from an exterior point of view. However, her reasoning was clearly not comfortable to you, as you perceive her views as hypocritical.
In all aspects of life, humans desire for their feelings be reciprocated. I am not condoning eye-rolling or showing a lack of interest while on a date. That is rude and inexcusable, even in the case of a guy not being shayach for her. I am referring to your statement that girls appear too shy. Please understand the dynamics of their lifestyles. In our frum society, girls are restricted from being in the company of boys. Some schools will even expel their female students if they are caught talking to boys. And this is not just high schools I am talking about. There are seminaries where the administrators, when outlining their regulations on the first day of school, warn their eager students that if they are seen in the company of boys, they will promptly be sent back home. Do you seriously believe that these same girls are capable of a comfortable give-and-take conversational exchange with a boy sitting across from them a short while after seminary?
Not only that, but girls are instructed to act in a modest manner while on a date. I fully agree that for a girl to maintain her dignity and halachic obligations, being modest is a great part of it. However, a young frum girl is not sure where to draw the line. She might consider an innocent compliment from a boy to be a negative factor. Countless young girls have rejected boys because they complimented them on an accessory they wore or perhaps an attractive feature, even if done in an appropriate manner. And that is not their fault. These girls were instructed by their educators that a boy should not be complimenting them. Some girls are also afraid to ask questions that might appear normal in a conversation, but they fear coming across as too forward.
So I ask you and all the young guys in your predicament to please cut these girls some slack on the issue of shyness and insecurity. Do not dismiss them because they are not reciprocating in their demeanor as you would like. Do not deem them cold or boring because they do not appear to be showing interest. Allow a girl the opportunity to feel comfortable in your presence, and within a few dates her true personality will usually shine through.
You express frustration about the financial arrangements in shidduch dating. I can respect your feelings that dates are costly, and dating so many girls must have put a major dent in your bank account. But you question what she is bringing to the date besides herself. Forgive me, but that query does not sit well with me. Bringing herself to the date is a major emotional investment on the part of a young girl. While not a financial investment, the fear of not getting that second date and worrying about passing the scrutiny of the boy she is sitting across from causes much anxiety to a young girl.
I am not suggesting that guys should continually spend vast sums of money in dating. There are many ideas for fun activities that will even ignite the conversation. A walk in the park, browsing through flea markets, visiting interesting exhibits, or even sitting in a coffee shop and inhaling the aromas are affordable ideas that will not infringe too much on your wallet.
I agree that it appears outwardly that there are girls who seek perfection, just as some boys seem to be doing. The reality, I believe, is that singles who are dating are simply misguided. They look at whom their friends are dating and marrying, and they do not realize that what works for someone else may not work for them. A dress or suit might look good on one person, but on another will look disastrous. The same is true when it comes to dating. A girl may seek a guy possessing the same qualifications as a guy her friend is dating, but that may not be the right fit for her. As a result, she becomes confused and rejects those with good potential. You are therefore correct in assessing that such girls would otherwise be happily married.
Education in shidduch dating needs to be instituted on a grand scale. It is not enough to go before an audience of singles and agree with what they already know—that indeed there is a shidduch crisis multiplying in epidemic proportions. Those who publicly address singles should not concern themselves with being “politically correct.” They need to have the courage of their convictions to openly admit the flaws of shidduch dating, which are plentiful. But, until such time as this occurs, you need to take care of your own needs in getting married.
Based on what you are conveying, it appears that you have much to offer as a would-be wonderful husband and father. From the qualities you are describing in yourself, it must be very painful to not be able to share all that you can give. Furthermore, to feel that you are putting in so much hishtadlus in finding your zivug and not see any ray of hope in sight only serves to increase your anxiety and disillusionment in dating.
Please understand that commiserating with your friends in similar predicaments can have negative consequences, as it only compounds the loss of morale. It can cause you to lose sight that indeed not every girl is the same as the previous.
As you keep your eyes open, allow your heart to remain open as well to the possibility that the next girl, or the one after, might be your future wife. Do not allow past dating frustrations to stand in the way of recognizing when your bashert is standing or sitting right in front of you.
I believe that just as there is a girl for you who wants nothing more than to be a wife and mother, you too seek to become the husband who will cherish her and the home she builds for you. You will meet the girl who seeks to fulfill her childhood fantasy of finding you—her prince who will be a devoted husband and father. And, when that happens, the shidduch will appear perfect to both of you.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. v
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