Standard shidduch dating mandates that the guy and girl go out together to some venue or participate in an activity, but without any other person involved. True, the shadchan is involved (at least at the beginning) to function as the communications field officer in coordinating battle plans and exchanging emotional sentiments, but he or she does not actually go on the date with the couple.
However, are there alternative combinations of the principle participants on a date?
I’ve heard of cases where parents accompany their respective children to the date, and sit off to the side talking amongst themselves while their kids, sitting within eyeshot, do their best to act normal. But that’s just incredibly awkward, and certainly does not make the situation/decision any easier for the guy and girl involved.
I am also not referring to a case of a third-wheel-date (if it can be called such a thing) between a guy and two girls, or a girl and two guys (this scenario is too much like a terrible reality-esque dating game show on MTV that I’ve heard about).
Consider, if you will, the idea of a double date. Though entirely standard fare in our parents’ generation (at least for some of our parents), and perhaps somewhat common amongst married couples looking for a fun night on the town with friends and away from the kids, does this ever happen with our generation? Regardless of what Orthodox social circle(s) you may travel in (with the exception of the more liberal modern types), I bet anyone reading this would be hard pressed to recall an example of such dating behavior.
As I see it, there are two problems with this idea (from the standard approach).First, it destroys the cardinal rule of privacy on a date. Heaven forbid that you should bump into your neighbor/aunt and uncle/roommate/chevrusa/mother’s yenta-friend on a date, not to mention the acknowledged though tactfully side-stepped encounter with a friend who is also on a date. Why would anyone ever think about purposefully infringing upon the sanctity of the “it takes two to tango” rule? (I just made that up, by the way, so feel free to make is a new lingo-term if you’d like).
Second, at what point in the dating process do you take part in such double-dates? Once you’re engaged or married, I see little point in participating in such an endeavor, since the exercise becomes a mere social activity. Certainly, attempting such a feat during the earlier stage of dating, where the shadchan is still active in the proceedings, would be inadvisable. But what about the stage after the go-between has been dropped and there is some substance to the relationship? Chana Levitan, in her recently released I Only Want To Get Married Once (expect a review of this wonderful book soon) has a whole chapter (#5) titled “What do people you are close to have to say about the person you are dating?” She writes there that friends’ opinions can be really enlightening, to either confirm how great your date is, or to yank the rose-colored glasses from your starry-eyes to alert you to problems/red flags you choose to ignore.
One friend did this with a girl he was semi-seriously dating. A friend and his wife were in town, so he took them out to lunch with his date. Afterward, he asked his friends what they thought, and they didn’t really seem to get a real impression at all. Shortly thereafter, he invited her over for a family get together, and asked his parents what their impression was. They also replied that they couldn’t really read anything from her, good or bad. Turns out she was hiding a lot of issues and was shielding them behind a façade – which lead to a painful break-up a while later.
Related to that, I don’t think double dating with any just other couple (even friends) would be a good idea. I would suggest that the other couple involved should be married (as in my friend’s case) or engaged – otherwise you might end up with one of those awkward, illicit TV drama stories where they switch dating partners or whatever. This venture, in my mind, is meant to give a little sampling of a greater experience as a couple, to see what things could theoretically be like down the road. For better or worse, I presume the guy and girl would learn something about themselves and their relationship.
One friend almost had an n-tuple date (n standing in for any particular positive, whole number) with his fiancée and her friends. The plan was to meet at Starbucks so he could be introduced to her many BFFs who had heard so much about him from her happy-go-lucky engaged babblings (this was before their vort). After some consideration, he gracefully declined, which I think was the smart thing to do. I imagine that would have been incredibly awkward.
One last idea, courtesy of my younger sister: She once found out I was dating the older sister of a friend of hers from her year in Israel (if that was confusing, the two older siblings of friends were going out). She suggested that we all go on a “double date” so that each of the younger sisters could meet/get to know the older sibling’s significant other. It was a cute and novel idea, but I flatly turned down the offer. Mind you, my date and I were not anywhere near engagement and had only been going out for one month. True, my sister probably just loves me and wanted to know all the ins-and-outs of my dating life (she still does), but I think that would have been rather awkward. Maybe if things were a bit more serious…
Anyway, would any of the readers seriously consider something like this (or the other double-date idea)?