I received the following email from a woman who feels very passionately about what she writes of. Through the years, I have written and spoken about my time as a single frum woman. This woman is still in the parshah and has been in it for a very long time, from the sound of her letter. We communicated through email and I asked her permission to publish this letter. She agreed, on the condition that I not attach her name to any part of the letter. I agreed. I can honestly feel this woman’s pain. I, too, still have friends in the shidduch parshah who are now of a mature age and probably feel the same as this woman.
I spent part of Sukkos away (no judging about COVID, please; no one knows the pressures I have and why I just needed to get away. Just know that I was as careful as I was able to be), looking forward to peace, relaxation, and most of all, anonymity in paradise. The program I was a part of consisted mostly of families. Only eight singles showed up, one of which was me. That’s fine, because I wanted relaxation, not mixing and mingling with a bunch of singles. I am a friendly person, so I went over to a married woman and introduced myself. Not two minutes into small talk, she asked, “How old are you?” I felt put on the spot, but I answered the question, hoping it would lead to a shidduch. “You look much younger,” was her reply. The small talk continued but about work and family, not about shidduchim. She didn’t say, “I’m thinking of setting you up with someone and I need to know if he’s age-appropriate,” which in my book, is the only good reason to ask a single woman her age. I reasoned out that she wanted to know my age so she can gauge where I rated in terms of being a “nebachy” single. Why else ask about my age but not follow up with a shidduch question?
As the week went on, it happened a few more times. One man blurted out, “How old are you?” I answered, again hoping that this would lead to him saying, “I have a son/nephew/neighbor…” Instead he replied, “What are you waiting for, Mashiach?” Appalled and hurt, I walked away. No, I didn’t have to reply, but I didn’t know how to get out of answering. It hit me after these episodes that what I felt was shame. I decided to call this phenomenon “age shaming.” I wonder, of those who are married, exactly what are you thinking by asking such a question? Do you not realize we “older singles” see you silently judging and pitying our single status from your smug little married perches? We see every “tsk tsk tsk” that you utter from the safety of your supposedly beautiful lives? Would you consider pointing out to an overweight person that she’s overweight? Nope. You know why? She knows she’s fat, and she’s already ashamed. Why pile more shame on top of that? How insensitive. Would you point out someone’s disability if he or she had one? No, chas v’shalom! How can I even ask that question, you may be thinking. But for some reason, married people think that they can say whatever they want to the not-yet sheitel/talis wearers. You feel that you can discuss private matters with us and file it under “trying to help,” so that it doesn’t seem like an awkward conversation to have with a stranger.
On more than one occasion I have been asked about and recommended to freeze my eggs. Yes. You read correctly. People have been telling me to freeze my eggs before I become so old and wrinkly that when I do get married, maybe my eggs won’t be able to cook up a baby. (Trust me, we all know about it and have done our research so you’re not helping.) They also suggest, “Maybe you should move to Israel!” (Wow! That’s a new one!) You ask us how old we are (we know we’re older and single. We’re trying not to be every day) and then recommend men for us who are 20 years our senior, or twice-divorced with children from both marriages. Would you set your own daughters up with these men? I highly doubt it. And when we kindly refuse the suggestion, it’s constantly pointed out that we’re picky and that is our problem. Sorry, I don’t think having standards is a problem or a negative.
A middle-aged woman I met on the trip learned that I knew a single woman who used to work for her. She asked me, conspiratorially if “so-and-so is married yet, because she is in her mid-40s.” My heart lurched. I was insulted on behalf of so-and-so. Little did she know that I wasn’t so far off from 44 myself. I said, “I don’t know how old she is. We don’t talk about age. It’s a very sensitive topic.” My comment flew over her head and she missed the point entirely. Married women and men like this cannot have any idea what the singles scene is like now because you haven’t dated in 10 or 20 years! Even the “cool and with it” married couples don’t fully get it. They can try to understand what we are going through to a certain point, but they really don’t “get it.”
This is my reality:
A few of my dates from before COVID:
- A very socially awkward man – It was painful and awkward for me to try to make him feel comfortable and ask questions to get to know him. I let the date run a respectable hour before nicely saying I had to go.
- Another man who didn’t even make any eye contact and gave one-word answers to my questions – There was also eye-rolling involved. He clearly didn’t want to be there, so I mustered all my courage and asked him if he wanted to be out with me. I got silence. That was enough of an answer for me, so I told him to take me home. I was crying when I got home.
- One nice-looking guy from a dating site who started chatting with me – After I did some research on him, I found out that he was convicted and arrested not long ago for having child pornography on his laptop. Needless to say, I ran for the hills.
I licked my wounds for a bit, and then moved on. My point is: We try. We do our hishtadlus. We go on date after date with people who are way beneath our standards. We want to get married so badly that we go on lots of dates with guys we know from the start probably aren’t for us. Most of us are single because there are very few quality men out there. I never insinuate that a person is single because something must be wrong or he or she must have issues. I’m not claiming to be flawless, but the truth is that the selection out there is really sub-par. Finding a suitable mate is like finding a needle in a haystack.
When I returned home from the Sukkos program, I found the woman on Facebook whom I met during Sukkos. She lives out of state, so I thought she would be a good resource to meet new men. I contacted her. She responded right away. She said she may know some people and asked me about myself. I gave her what I thought she wanted: age, stats, career, hobbies. She said, “Yeah, yeah, all that’s very nice, but why are you single?” I froze. What would be an appropriate reply to that question? “Why, are you stupid?” I told her I just hadn’t met the right guy yet. But how dare she ask such a question? She continued by asking me if I’m healthy. Excuse me? Did I look or sound unhealthy – and I’m not referring to COVID. If I weren’t healthy, would I tell her? I couldn’t believe what she was asking. Instead of asking me what I was looking for in a mate, she was asking questions assuming something is wrong with me. If this isn’t age-shaming, nothing is. The answer is that nothing is wrong with me. For some reason, Hashem wants me to be single right now. I told her that and she gave an awkward giggle. What’s that about? Does she not believe it? Does she think my bashert and I met, had a great month worth of dating, I was swept off my feet, found out we had the same hashkafos and goals in life, but when push came to shove, I told him I didn’t want to marry him because I wanted to see if I can find better than my bashert in the cesspool of dating, not a lake not a giant pool, but a cesspool of dating? I couldn’t believe it. Ladies, if you really want to help, sit down with a pen and paper once a week and make a list of all the singles you know, and start making some phone calls! Wouldn’t that be more productive than tsk-ing and judging?
(I will call the writer Baily because I like that name.)
During my communication with Baily, I told her that her letter said it all and I only wished that she did answer the people who asked those ridiculous questions the way she wrote. But we both knew, she can’t burn any bridges when any connection may lead to a shidduch – which is what we both can’t stand. Baily had a good sense of humor, saying that’s one of the reasons why she wants to get married, besides finding her bashert and building a life together – she wants to be able to speak her mind instead of biting her tongue all the time.
Baily, I hear you – and others out there hear you and other singles, as well. We hear men and women silently asking us for help in finding their bashert without having to pay the price of dealing with people asking stupid questions or having to jump through hoops to get there. I told Baily this, and I will tell all single readers this, and I allow you to roll your eyes as you read it because I really do get it: By staying single this long, you will come to love and appreciate your bashert more when you are married than the 20- or 22-year-olds who dated for a year or two and then married the third or even eleventh person they went out with.”
I thank Hashem every day for my husband. I have had people ask if my daughter is “your youngest?” They don’t know how to respond when I say, “Nope. She’s my oldest.” Depending on their facial expression, I may add, “I got married when I was in my 30s.” I don’t say it to explain why a 40-year-old’s oldest child is almost 5. I say it to try to make them feel better for asking a ridiculous question. It’s my “Mitzvah of the Day,” to try to take their foot out of their mouth. What does it matter if my daughter is my oldest, middle, or youngest child? Another example: My parents had friends who married late, had fertility issues, but, baruch Hashem, were lucky to get pregnant and have a daughter. I remember my mother’s friend telling her that when she and her husband were walking with their then two-year-old who was in the stroller, they met a couple they knew also wheeling a toddler. Yes, you guessed correctly. The other couple asked my parents’ friends how old their granddaughter was, and were floored to learn that it was their daughter. My mother’s friend laughed about it because the other couple didn’t mean any harm; they were around the same age and they were pushing their grandchild in the stroller. My mother’s friend knew how lucky she was to have her daughter and didn’t get angry or insulted.
Baily, you and the others will feel the same when you find your bashert. Listen to the Rascal Flatts song that I have quoted several times in this column: “G-d bless the broken road that led me straight to you.”
Hatzlachah to you all.