Thursday, January 21, 2010

Where Seldom Is Heard A Discouraging Word?

As I regroup from the most recently ended shidduch and continue to speak with friends and would-be shadchanim regarding what to do next, a certain incident comes to mind from the last time I was in this investigative phase.

The mother of my sister's friend contacted me regarding a girl from her out-of-town city who was now living in New York for graduate school. I thought I recognized the name of potential candidate she suggested, and after we concluded our phone call I got in touch with the wife of a friend of mine who lives here in the Heights. I wanted to confirm if a) my memory was just playing tricks on me, or b) I had actually met the person before - conveniently at their dinner table one fine Shabbos several months prior.

It turns out that my brain was not fabricating memories, and I had in fact enjoyed more than one meal at their apartment where this young lady was also been present. My friend's wife was also kind enough to show me a picture on their refrigerator to jog my memory when I stopped by their place a day or two later on an unrelated visit.

Having recalled the times spent playing Bananagrams with this particular young lady (and the her general personality, demeanor, etc) along with a hearty recommendation from my married friends, I called back the shadchan and said yes. A day or so later, she emailed me saying that the girl also remembered me and was pleasantly surprised that I was interested in going out with her. The girl was going to do a bit of research and give her reply in a day or two.

Shortly thereafter, I received another email where the shadchan informed me that the girl had spoken to a few friends who happened to "know" me, and they told her they didn't think it would work. Based off of this "advice" she declined the possibility of a date. The shadchan then apologized and wrote that she didn't agree with this sort of reasoning and had tried to talk some sense into her with no success. She was convinced and wouldn't hear anything more about the idea.

Far be it from me to question the hashgacha pratis workings of whether or not I actually get to go out with each attractive candidate (not physically, but generally) that gets suggested to me - but I think the shadchan was right to question these friends' "helpful" input. It's not as though she called my references or people who really knew me and found out in-depth information that indicated there was no real potential based on some important reason. Instead, she spoke with her friends who also happened to have met me on those two or three occasions we all shared meals at our mutual married friends' apartment - who I am fairly certain have just as vague an impression of me as I have of them. I don't know who specifically she spoke to (the crowd of invites was different at each occasion), but running through a mental list of who I can remember was there does not ring any bells of other girls who knew me in any serious fashion.

It's one thing to speak to a person's Rav or a married friend they grew up with and to find out that the proposed candidate is on an entirely different wavelength or has significant life goals that will cause conflict later down the road (such as intending to make aliyah, pursuing a certain demanding career, or an unyielding desire to live in Podunkville Nowhere to do kiruv). It's entirely different, and far from substantial, to ask your fellow unmarried friends for a generic, very uninformed opinion.

This is why Rav Goldvicht recommends that single people don't discuss potential/actual dates and daters with their single friends - and that single people are allowed to suggest ideas for shidduchim, but shouldn't act as the intermediary between the guy and girl.

I wish I had heard that second idea before I voluntarily began a shidduch where my single guy friend was talking to his female best friend (because she wasn't comfortable talking to me, which is understandable) who was then talking to the girl . There was quite a bit of miscommunication back and forth - such as my friend telling me after several dates that his friend didn't sound enthusiastic about the continued life of the shidduch. Apparently she had sighed or something when she mentioned the possibility of another date and he took that to mean the girl I was actually going out with was going to dump me (which she eventually did, about a month and a half later). I didn't believe his "intuition" or whatever, and, recognizing it for the mishugas that it was, called his friend directly to ask her point-blank if she felt that way or not (and if she had conveyed it wordlessly as he described). The +1 shadchan immediately replied that she had no clue what I was talking about, and she certainly did not intend to give such an impression to my friend to report back to me. After the next date, the girl and I decided to end the unnecessary frustration of double communication and dropped our well-meaning shadchanim.

As a side point - this is another important lesson I learned from one of my rabbeim in Israel. If you have a ta'anah (claim) against/about someone, don't speculate and discuss theoretical possibilities with a distantly connected other party - just ask the person! Sometimes being respectfully direct can be most helpful - in dating and in any other area of human interaction in life.

I guess my point is that while us singles are indeed the main tokens on this board game called "The Dating Game: The Home Version," we shouldn't be the ones moving the pieces. Yes your friends are wonderful people (and I'll probably find that out during my research), but their word can't be accepted as absolute - unless they really know what their talking about. Even so, I would still take any single friendly advice with a grain of salt. As I've heard from Rav Goldvicht and other rabbeim who talk about this specific aspect of dating, they're in the same boat as you, so they are not as objective of a third party as you might believe.

I hope I don't sound bitter over this old history. If anything it's her loss, not mine. No, that's not arrogance, but a healthy dose of self confidence - which we all need when facing the often demoralizing and discouraging dating world (everyone should have a reasonably positive view of him/herself). I'm sure she'll move on and find her bashert just as I will mine - or in some twist of fate, perhaps we will eventually go out and live happily ever after - but I'm not holding my breath.

So let's all make an effort to refrain from uneducated or uninformed expression of opinion - and the skies won't be cloudy all day.


  1. It's so true and I've heard it lots of times - one of the problems with the shidduch world (and I'm not saying it can easily be fixed, or that it should be thrown out the door) is the "checking out" phase. Now, to be honest, I haven't started dating yet and don't have any personal experience in this area, but I have heard from so many close friends/family that a suggestion was put to a halt based on some random "friend's" words. Sometimes, the comment even came from a truly good friend who had dated the girl, determined she wasn't for himself, and therefore nixed her for his friend. People in the shidduch world, which is frighteningly small and where names are always flying about, need to a) be extremely careful about what they say, and to whom and b) need to realize that they are not necessarily their friend (no matter how close they are), so what doesn't work out for them may very well be exactly what works for their friend.
    Shkoyach for bringing it up.

  2. I wonder if her female were interested in you or just being jealous and catty... girls are so dumb they don't realize how much their best friends hate them.

  3. Happy Medium - I concur! One of the people I've been talking to about a shidduch prospect recently happens to be someone who I went out with before - so at least she's doing the right thing. No two people are the same, no matter how close they are as friends, and that never gives anyone a right to pre-determine what best suits their friend. This is especially true if the shidduch simply didn't work out for them for reasons of incompatibility and not because the other person was a jerk or whatever (in which case, a proper warning may be warranted).

  4. I must say that the most meaningful references I've found were not the references given, because those given references are biased and will of course only say good things. Those given references are unlikely to tell you of the shalom bayis problems, or the skeletons in the closet type of thing. I think there is something to asking your friends, whether single or not, of their thoughts IF YOU TRUST THEIR OPINION AND FEEL THEY HAVE YOUR BEST INTERESTS AT HEART.

    In your case, I can't speak of what the female single friends thought because I do not know. Maybe they know this girl and know she doesn't like something specific that you exhibit, i.e. she wants an olive skin-colored person and you are as pale as snow, or something objective like that. Or even something as subjective as your laugh and they know their friend will no way be able to stand it. you don't know for what reason it was nixed.

    A guy in this position just has to accept she doesn't want to go out with you and nothing is going to change that, however regretable.

    Sorry, dude.

    And, boy, you sure refer to Rabbi Goldvicht a lot.

  5. True, I don't know what reason it was nixed - nor does it matter at this point. However, it wasn't anything you suggested, unless the friends convinced her that her memory was faulty - since she had met me and been around me for several lengthy Shabbos meals. She was in fact interested until friends told her to forget it.

    I do accept it, and have no regrets - I just agree with the shadchan (a far more experiened, older married woman) that whatever minimal thoughts her friends suggested were not worth paying attention to the point of changing her own prior-established opinion.

    And I realize I seem like a Rav Goldvicht chossid for quoting him a lot - but it's all from his one annual dating shiur (given in his apartment for all the YU guys, around the week of Parshas Chayei Sarah). He simply goes through a number of valuable insights in a straightforward point-by-point fashion that I find to be very worth quoting. He himself says that not everything he talks about is applicable to everyone (and guys should take heed of what is appropraite for them), so of the half dozen things I've referenced, there are about 40 more bits of information he shares as well. I've only mentioned those I've personally found to be rationally reasonable and experientially true (not that anything he said was unreasonable or false).

  6. I think in addition to not having singles act as shaddchanim, there should also never be more than one Shaddchan. It's confusing enough to have one person possibly misinterpreting what the girl says, with two you're almost guaranteeing a mix up. I've been through that before and I wouldn't recommend it.

  7. I don't think this is about unreliable references; this is about a girl who just doesn't want to go out with you. This girl met you, played a game with you, and ate dinner with you. That's more than I ever did on a first date!
    Typically when someone knows you and doen't want to date you, he or she will use some lame excuse.
    Don't take this personally, and I'm not trying to bash you. Hey, it's probably her loss.

  8. lawschooldrunk - I completely understand your point that close friends who are references may tend to be biased, but I disagree with statement about them being not good references because they will refrain from mentioning shalom bayis issues or "skeletons in the closet."

    L'halacha, any reference has absolutely no business whatsoever mentioning familial issues with regards to any party involved in the shidduch, or any such negative facts, unless they are asked point-blank, or unless it is an issue that is medically or psychologically based. And even then, there are serious halachos that need to be taken into account before offering this information. Being a reference for a shidduch (especially ones with valid issues that may need to be brought up) is a minefield of potential lashon hara issues.

    As always, if you are privy to such information and are a reference, you must ask a LOR (local Orthodox rabbi) before volunteering this information.

  9. ShadesOfGrey, do you have an email address at which I can contact you?

  10. Indeed, I created one just for this purpose: shadesofgreyjblog (at) gmail (dot) com.

    I have been meaning to post this somewhere on the sidebar so that readers could contact me if they wanted to. Thanks for reminding me!

  11. Anytime. (Yes, anytime you want me to remind you to post your email address on your blog's sidebar, I'll do just that.)

  12. In this case, it makes even less sense for the girl to check you out in that way because she had already met you and should be able to judge herself whether it was worth at least one date. Not everyone's advice is worth following. That is the lesson behind Rechovom's error, which lost him half his kingdom, no less.


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