Reading about present-day dating has an amazing way of making me exceedingly thankful to be married. An article from last October is making the rounds on Medium recently: a monologue in a Seinfeld-like voice on what it’s like to be single today.
The author, Shani Silver, bemoans the fact that she’s not dating in the 1990s, an era where texting instead of calling wasn’t the reality and when “ghosting” referred to Casper instead of a relationship-ending technique. When my husband Seth tweeted the piece he commented,
This is good and, like most such pieces, makes a very strong argument for Orthodox Judaism https://t.co/dInuCt0XfE
— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) July 9, 2017
What did he mean? To be clear: Dating in the Orthodox world isn’t perfect. But it is better.
Shidduchim is a system of matchmaking in which the ultimate purpose is marriage. Anyone can act as a shadchan; a relative of ours met her husband because a man she went on a date with made a shidduch for her with his roommate when it didn’t work out between them.
Traditionally, however, there are older married women whose hobby it is to make matches, and spend their time getting to know the individuals they’re making matches for. When a match is made there’s no never-ending exchange of text messages before meeting, nor is it acceptable to “ghost” a match because it wasn’t a good fit.
This Has Plenty of Advantages
The benefits of the system circumvent many of the issues Silver discussed. You know every single person you’re matched with isn’t looking to “have fun and see where it goes”—marriage is the ultimate goal. You don’t have to be afraid the relationship might go on for years aimlessly; if it’s not a good fit, both parties generally move on fairly quickly to the next match.
Behavior like “ghosting,” getting handsy, and sending pictures of one’s genitalia is reported back to the matchmaker, who would never make another match for the offending party again. If you’re really unlucky, your mom might get a call about it too. The Jewish community is small, which is in many ways a blessing and a curse, but one cannot presume to send photos of private parts and hope to stay anonymous. Everybody you went to school, camp, and synagogue with is likely to hear about it in a week’s time.
Matchmaking systems work in a variety of ways: there’s an online service called SawYouAtSinai where volunteer matchmakers set up paid users, larger-scale matchmakers who collect shidduch resumes and often expect payment upon successful matches, and smaller-scale matchmakers who largely operate on a volunteer basis.
That’s not to say the system is perfect, and that everyone who submits themselves to it walks away happily married. Like everything else in life, there are no guarantees. One of the biggest topics of conversation in the Jewish community is the “shidduch crisis.” There are, somehow, more unmarried Jewish women than there are unmarried men. And because women are heavily pressured to be as appealing as possible, there are reports of plastic surgery and eating disorders among young women in the community.
You Can Do This Even If You’re Not Jewish
Matchmaking doesn’t have to take on the communal structure and stringencies required in the Orthodox world. Very far on the modern side of the Orthodox spectrum myself, I dabble in matchmaking. I have a literal spreadsheet of single friends in New York and Washington DC, where most of my friends are based.
Before I make a match, I ensure both parties are interested in marriage and will agree to meet. Because a friend has made the connection, I’d like to believe both parties are on their best behavior: if one ghosts another, they know they’ll hear about it from me. I’ve set up two marriages and always have my eye out for a third (it’s folklore in the Jewish world that making three matches results in an instant ticket to Heaven).
You can do the same. Yes, you. Open an Excel spreadsheet right now and brainstorm amazing friends and family you think should be paired off. Have a party and exchange notes about these amazing singles. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see pictures and videos of the couples I set up, not to mention their kids.
Marriage is important. It makes its participants happier and can even lengthen their lifespan. Procreation is literally the key to the future of the human race. If none of those reasons is enough to spur on your own matchmaking adventure, just do it for the nice gift the couple will get you as a thank-you.