A boy agreed to go out with a girl, but she was busy. A couple of weeks later, when the girl became available, she came back with a yes, but the boy was busy then. The boy then became free a little bit after that. Is he responsible to honor his original yes and go out with her?
By Baila Sebrow
Most people would agree that dating nowadays has changed dramatically from previous years. People are so focused on what is “right” or “wrong” that they are losing sight of the reality that the world is populated by humans, not robots.
No person can run his life according to a step-by-step guide. And that goes for shidduchim, too. However, because some people might decide that a particular technique has worked for them, it suddenly takes on a life of its own and thus becomes the modus operandi for all dating singles in the community. But it tends to be unsuccessful because a method that works for one person may not work for another. This is where fear and uncertainty come in for the parents and their sons and daughters. Your question, although genuine, is an illustration of the self-created shidduch dilemmas in our society.
Your letter does not indicate whether you are an inquiring parent or a single boy. Either way, I will assume that you are seeking guidance or perhaps even validation. It sounds like you are perplexed about the way things work, and you want to make sure that you are doing everything that is politically correct, while maximizing success. That is a healthy approach.
For starters, you need to understand that the underlying objective of dating, in general, is for a guy and girl to have the opportunity of getting to know one another in a relaxed atmosphere. The intention is for the relationship to progress so that the couple will ultimately come to an assessment of whether there are shared ideals and compatibility. This is the practical and healthy process that, under the right circumstances, is meant to lead to marriage. Anything contrary to such progression, including the lunacy of following a particular community system, only serves to hinder the objective of getting married. Allowing unconstructive techniques to persist will leave singles in their unmarried state that much longer.
Years ago, those who were in the shidduch parashah would date more frequently than today. If a suggestion was made, the boy and girl would, without much ado, meet each other to see if there was some potential. They would go for a cup of coffee or something else informal. And if they liked each other after that one date, further inquiries about the person would be made. Singles at least had the opportunity to get that foot in the door. Most people got dates, and plenty of them.
Single boys and girls would go out with several people during that shidduch stage in their lives. They were not two-timing anyone. Rather, they and their parents used common sense and understood that dating, for some, ends up being a numbers game. The more people one is able to date, the greater the chance of finding his or her bashert. I do not know who dreamed up, or what rationale is behind, the idea of placing a good suggestion on hold just because the boy or girl said yes to someone else. Saying yes does not amount to an engagement. Denying the prospect of meeting someone plausible for marriage when one is not already in a continuing relationship is something that needs to be outlawed.
Nowadays, when a shidduch is suggested to a boy, the girl oftentimes has no clue about what is going on behind the scenes. But she does find out through the grapevine that she and her family—and extended family, going back a few generations in some cases—are being thoroughly investigated. And this is not one-sided; the investigative process works both ways.
The comedy of errors occurs when the boy finally says yes because of some attribute he hears about the girl or her family, but in the meantime the girl has said yes to a boy who said yes to her first. And when she goes out with the latter boy, she often discovers that they either have very little in common or there is zero attraction. The shidduch is then thus captioned as “not shayach.” And the tale then develops into the scenario you depicted.
In the secular world, this would make for a great soap opera, yet in our society this is considered normal everyday life. No one would ever dare question any authority who recommends this madness. And we wonder why we have so many unmarried singles!
Aside from increasing the opportunities for finding one’s bashert, saying yes to going out with more than one person is a healthier choice. There is less pressure to make that date that you are on work out. In addition, the knowledge that you have another date coming up puts you in a more relaxed state.
One of the complaints I often hear from singles who reject the person they went out with after one date is that the person seemed uptight. Who wouldn’t be? The girl, especially, realizes that she may not get another date for a long time if the date she is on does not work out. And even from a guy’s viewpoint, not knowing if he will give a yes to someone in the near future may also distress him.
In this situation there is no right or wrong answer. No one can or should be writing a recipe for you to follow. You are not baking a cake; you are dealing with another person. Should this boy (let’s say it’s you) honor the original yes? Why did you agree to the date in the first place? I assume that at the time, she must have passed some sort of requirement deeming her worthy for you. But fate stepped in and she became busy with another guy. And when that did not pan out, it seems like she turned back to you. I do not know the timespan of this saga. If it was a longer period, perhaps you feel differently about yourself. Has your hashkafah changed in any way? Have you become more modern or maybe turned frummer, and are you now afraid that you may no longer be on the same page as her?
If it has been a while since she was first redt to you, she, too, could have changed, and maybe set out to a similar hashkafah as you. In that case, you can check with the shadchan who suggested this shidduch to you.
If, however, there is another reason why you feel ambivalent about meeting this girl, you need to face that head-on. Is it possible that you felt pressured to say yes from the beginning, even though you felt she was not right for you? Whatever your reasons may be, you need to allow your heart to guide you. Most shadchanim would tell you to go out with her anyway, and a whole lot of other things to guilt-trip you. However, I believe that there would be nothing honorable about going out with a girl whom you would rather not be with. She will sense it from the moment you walk through the door until the end of the date.
In the future, I urge you, as I urge all singles, to please not follow the “laws” that have been instituted. They only cause trouble. If a shidduch is suggested to you, just go out. Let’s get back to the way people dated in years past—before it became a crisis.
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.
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