I know very well that I’m opinionated and jaded regarding many topics. Dating is one of them. So when I received the email below, I had to ask myself how I would want the question answered if I asked it. Here we have a “wet-behind-the-ears” young woman who has entered the shidduch parshah. She’s asking for advice. Do I begin to tell her what to be on the lookout for and how to avoid certain situations with shadchanim as well as with fellows? Do I just give general advice that can help anyone entering the shidduch parshah without frightening them away? I decided that if she wrote to me, she must either read my column (so she knows where I stand on most shidduch topics), or someone who knows her and my column told her to email me. Either way, I chose to be the bigger person and to give general advice that can be applied to life in general, not just the shidduch parshah.
I’m kind of new to the dating scene. Any advice? I know it’s a very broad and general question. But I’ll take anything I can get?
Oh, Sara, my child. I can teach you so much, but I must use my powers for good, not evil. I can’t turn you against the system that will ultimately help you find your bashert, im yirtzeh Hashem.
I’ll give you advice about the only thing you can count on – yourself.
I only say that it’s unfortunate that you are new to the shidduch parshah now, because social distancing and maximum capacity limits, as well as curfews (depending on where you live), make dating even harder than it has to be. But stay with it. If you begin swimming in the deepest end of the pool, when you get to the shallows, it’ll be a piece of cake.
Advice... Hmmmm. Okay: Give yourself a little credit. You have made it this far in life, whether you are in school or working, so put some faith in your judgment. If something feels off, then say no. You will have well-meaning shadchanim and friends urging you to go out once “and try it.” No harm in that, right? But I only agree to that if you don’t have any misgivings about the shidduch. If the shidduch sounds okay, just not “exciting,” that may not be a concrete reason to say no (in my opinion). And if you say no to a shidduch, don’t be persuaded to change your mind. That’s called harassment, not just nudging.
If you do want to ask advice of people in regard to a specific shidduch or situation you’re in, ask; but do not ask everyone you know, because you will get 12 different opinions. Not everyone needs to know your business and not everyone is qualified to give dating advice. If you want to ask a close friend, your parents, a dating coach (and I roll my eyes as I write that, but some people need them), then go ahead and do it. But too many cooks spoil the stew and too many opinions will spin your head. You and only you are going to be the one to live with the consequences (good or bad), whatever you choose or decide. I don’t care if the advice is sage or from a 105-year-old Bubby who was married for 80 years – you, not Bubby, are going to be the one living with your choice. Bubby may be good for life experiences, stories, and recipes, but even the best rebbe and Bubby may not be the best for dating advice.
Don’t be afraid to question the status quo. Not everything that “is” has to “be” or has to continue on. Case in point: The organization I am working for, My Extended Family, is trying to change the name of “Father-Son Learning Program” that most shuls have on Motza’ei Shabbos because we are thinking of boys that can’t learn with their father for whatever reason. Even the name of the program may affect a boy and make him feel bad. Why not call it Dor v’Dor Learning? We are actually trying to set up men that have only daughters or men whose sons are past the age of the learning groups to take boys in our program who do not have fathers available to take them. Dating can’t be compared to this example, but we are trying to change what the standard is. If you want to ask a fellow out on a date, do it. If you don’t want to give a full-length picture to go along with your resume, don’t. As I always tell people, “You do you.” Do whatever you feel is right, because no matter what shadchanim may think of the next sentence, it still rings true: There aren’t any real rules in shidduch dating.
Sara, I wish you much hatzlachah. Your question was asking for advice, which is very broad, but this is exactly what I would and will tell my own daughter when the time is right.
Hatzlachah to you all, as well.