My grandson just came home from Israel and informed us that he wants to start dating. He is only 20 years old! When I asked him why he is in such a rush, he told me that he is lonely. Meanwhile, my daughter and son-in-law got busy right away and started calling shadchanim to line dates up for him, who is their oldest child.
I am outraged by what is going on today. The male youngsters come back fresh from learning abroad, not having experienced life outside the four corners of their yeshivas, and have gained neither the insight nor aptitude to engage a young woman in a lifelong partnership.
In view of the increasing incidence of breakups, both before and after marriage, the present system seems to call into question the reasonableness of these young alliances in which the key participants have not yet learned to walk on their own two feet.
Not only that, but guess who is going to pay the bills when they start coming in? Me, as many younger grandparents of our generation do. We always helped out with the high yeshiva tuition bills, camps, vacations, etc. But this is outrageous.
I tried explaining to my daughter that she should not allow her son to date yet, until he is earning some money. He is in college now, but I want him to at least get a part-time job. All my children did. Why is this new generation different? Please tell me what I can do to make them see the light. I am scared for my grandson to get married so young.
By Baila Sebrow
You certainly have cause for concern from a financial perspective—as well as the emotional aspect and consequences of marrying so young. However, my own antennae of alarm were raised when you mentioned that your grandson’s reason for wanting to marry now was specifically because he feels lonely. That sort of response is not common in a boy of age 20, but rather in much older people.
The feeling of loneliness as the basis for marriage at that age is unusual. It sounds like his yearning to be married is more psychologically based than social or personal. I would feel more comfortable with your grandson’s viewpoint on marriage if he had told you that he is rushing to start dating now because that is what his friends and everyone in his social circles is doing, or even if he did not give you any reason. But the fact that he vocalizes his feeling lonely should be alarming to you at this point, and that is where you as a loving, devoted grandparent need to place focus on.
Your grandson recently came home from Israel, where surely he was surrounded by people. At college where he is now, I am sure your grandson is aware of the various social opportunities available to frum students. Yet, for whatever reason, all of that is not working for him, and he is still feeling an emptiness. I am bringing this to your attention for you to understand that the issue of loneliness he is referring to is probably some sense of isolation that he is experiencing. This is an issue that your daughter and son-in-law need to take into consideration.
However, not everyone who gets married young today does so as a result of loneliness. There are a number of healthy reasons why, in our frum society, boys and girls feel driven to get married young. As long as the intentions are wholesome, it is to be considered meritorious.
The downside to young marriages relates to a sad sign of the times: the divorce rate is at an all-time high today. People are not as ashamed to say they are divorced as the previous generation, who may unfortunately have been in similar bad marriages. The stigma associated with divorce is lessening with each generation, in all hashkafic circles.
Even though there were plenty of people in previous generations who married young, they usually understood that marriage takes work, as do all partnerships in life. In today’s day and age, there are some young couples who break up over trivial matters, citing reasons such as “he doesn’t understand me,” or “she’s sloppy,” etc. This is not to undermine the serious issues such as abuse, lying, and cheating on a spouse that may necessitate a divorce.
There are even guys aged 23 or 24 who, while being a few years older than your grandson, have little to no insight or aptitude on how to live with anyone other than their dorm roommate. Furthermore, as you imply, many have no inkling concerning financial obligations. And you are right, very few seek a part-time job. These kids do not even have their own pocket change. They need to go to their parents for the most minuscule purchase.
Years ago it was common for college students to take on jobs that today’s kids would find embarrassing. There were frum medical, dental, law, and other professional students who would work as waiters and busboys in restaurants and hotels while attending the grueling schedules of their schools. Today, it is unheard of. The very same parents who were employed in such capacities would not dream of allowing their sons to work as they did. It would humiliate them. I know quite a few parents who take on second jobs just to support their young married children. Some of these children are full-time learners, while others are educating themselves to be future professionals.
To be fair, the competitive curriculums in today’s yeshivas and higher-educational institutions leave very little time for a student to maintain a part-time job. That said, the responsibilities of everyday living expenses fall on the shoulders of the parents or on the not-too-elderly grandparents such as yourself. It is quite understandable that you find this to be outrageous.
The maturity aspect is another disturbing factor. Frum guys who went through same-gender yeshivas and extracurricular activities oftentimes think that they can relate to their wives as friends. One young recently married woman I know complained to me that her husband always punches her in the arm in jest. When confronted, her young husband was insulted when he discovered that his harmless punch in the arm felt rude to his wife. He explained that he and his friends always did that to each other, and it never dawned on him that he needed to treat his wife differently.
You seem astonished that your daughter and son-in-law went to task by contacting shadchanim, who, no surprise to anyone, immediately lined dates up for him. Being young parents themselves, they were most likely thrilled to be in the parashah. The knowledge that their son is in such shidduch demand is additionally flattering to them. I can guarantee you that with the large number of young girls seeking shidduchim, your grandson’s availability is a blessing to the shadchanim who can respond with suggestions for dates for the girls seeking them.
With all that, the reality of life is that shidduchim are based on the individuals. Each family is entitled to make its own decisions with regard to what works best for each child.
As a grandparent, there is nothing wrong with voicing your concern with facts that you feel might be detrimental to the emotional or physical well-being of any of your grandchildren. Although you have authentic concerns, whether you agree or not with any of their choices, ultimately they still have the right to live life as they wish. By the same token, you should not be made to feel guilty, or feel obligated to financially enable a situation that does not sit well with 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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