A few weeks ago, I wrote an article that contained the phrase “present year.” That phrase has garnered a lot of attention. It was an unfamiliar term to me. When I asked for clarification, I was told (by my niece and her friend, both in the dating parshah) that the “present year” is the year before a husband/chasan attends school, goes to work…after he finishes the year or two, or whatever was agreed upon, of learning. This is the husband giving all of himself to his wife. She gets all of his attention and love, he helps out wherever necessary, they can travel. It is a year dedicated to the wife because it is felt that when the husband does attend school/go to work, he will not be able to spend as much time or attention on his wife, and she shouldn’t feel like she doesn’t matter because he is too busy to sit down for a three-course dinner or take a drive to a nice park to have a picnic.
My niece and her friend and others see this as a perfectly normal concept, and they include it in what they tell shadchanim that they are looking for. I, on the other hand, and those from my generation and older, laugh at this term, “present year.” How can it be a present? A present is a gift given from one to another. Google defines a gift as “a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.” But obviously someone must pay for it. But in this case, who is paying for the present year? The in-laws? The wife who is working full time or going to school full time herself? Many seemed to take umbrage with the fact that the financial responsibility of the “present” falls on others, and so maybe this “gift” needs to be renamed.
Below are some excerpts from emails I have received about this:
“…Let me get this straight: I’ve agreed to support my daughter and her husband for the years when he is learning, and I have already committed myself to tens of thousands of dollars to pay for most of their wedding. I’m fine with all that. But now I’m supporting them for a whole year before my son-in-law begins his pursuit of a degree (which I am sure I will be contributing to), but instead of the “thank you” which I am not looking for, my son-in-law takes the credit for this as his gift to my daughter? I must be crazy here. “Hey honey, during our present year, let’s travel for a few weeks,” or “Sure I can help you go grocery shopping, but let’s go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s where the products are more expensive…” but I’m the one paying for all of this and not my son-in-law! The world has gone mad!” [a father living in KGH who did not want his name published]
“…It says a lot when someone wants to devote a year of getting to know and to loving his wife and coming to appreciate her on a different level, before things get too busy with kids and work. This is their time, and they won’t get it back until their kids are grown and out of the house. This is a special time for them. It’s wonderful that the husband would put his career or schooling on hold for his wife…” [Adina of Jamaica Estates, who is newly married]
“The concept of ‘present year’ is something that I never thought of. It never even occurred to me. I’m dating, and I’d like my chasan to learn for at least a year after we marry, and then to begin his education or start work. A year of togetherness is wonderful. But isn’t it just delaying life? I’d love to spend a year in the “honeymoon phase,” even after the honeymoon is over. This is something that I’d need to discuss with my parents if they would be willing to help. I can understand if my parents would want my husband to start on his way to working. I never thought of a present year. It has pros and cons…” [an anonymous kallah in-the-making]
“…I guess I’m too old to understand anything the younger generation does. Why text back and forth for an hour instead of actually talking on the phone to each other? Why speed up to a red light using gas that is very expensive today? Why have an app that allows you to paint by numbers instead of actually painting by numbers? I’ll chalk this idea of a “present year” to something I don’t understand. Maybe if I did, I could give my opinion on it. It just makes no sense.” [Avi Freedman of Rego Park]
“…I can fully understand allowing adult children to live at home until they are married, be it at 19 or 40. My children have always stayed at home until they were married. But once you’re married, take responsibility of financing your own life, unless there was an agreement for parents to help if the chasan is learning. I gladly pay for my son or sons-in-law to learn. But to pay for them to take a year off and, instead of backpacking through Europe or “finding themselves,” as some of my peers did in the 1960s and ’70s right before or after college, the couple is now just going to enjoy each other’s company? Get going! Get moving! The cost of everything is going up! I didn’t have the luxury of getting to know and spend time with my husband after we were married for a couple of years by asking my parents or in-laws to pay for it. We got to know each other while dating, throughout the engagement, and during the first year of marriage. We keep getting to know each other as we age, and opinions change. Life is busy. It will always be busy. I’d tell my single kids they would have to be out of their minds to ask for a “present year” on top of all my husband and I are willing to pay for. Is this what is being taught in seminary? “How can we get you to delay living in reality and get your parents to spend more money?” [a very opinionated mother who did not want her name published]
“…They get ideas from seminary. My practical daughter, who wanted her chasan to learn for a year after marriage, came to me with this “present year” issue after she returned from seminary last year. We quickly set her straight and said she can get to know her husband when they are home together or running errands together like her parents did. Lol.” [Shani Lieberman of KGH]
“This is a beautiful concept, and I would gladly allow my children to do this when they are in the parshah. What other way can they build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael without this concept, and why hasn’t it been thought of earlier? Yes, some people will disagree, but we are talking about the next generation of klal Yisrael. Children should see the affection and love their parents have for each other as a model for how they should bond with their partner.” [Esther K. of Kew Gardens]
I’ll end the opinions here. Everyone has very valid arguments for what they believe. There is no right or wrong, although according to some there should be. Who knows what we’ll hear about next month or next year in terms of the shidduch world, but one thing is for certain, it will keep evolving. Yes, I used the word “evolving,” because my pal Google defines it as “develop gradually, especially from a simple to a more complex form.” And what can be more complex than the world of shidduch dating in today’s world, when in our grandmothers’ time it probably started with two yentas talking about their grandchildren in the shtetl square?
Hatzlachah to you all.