As adults, whether we are parents, aunts, uncles, or friend, we want to protect the children in our lives. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary to have the serious conversation with them about stranger danger. I’ve told my daughter, “No one lost a puppy and needs you to help look for it. No one has candy that they want to give away. I would never send a stranger to pick you up from school, a party, or the park – especially when you have over 13 aunts and uncles very willing to pick you up if Tatty or I can’t.” I also had the uncomfortable but necessary talk about “If someone touches you...” These conversations are very necessary and important to have, no matter how uncomfortable you may feel talking about these subjects. The running theme in these important discussions (and make it a discussion, don’t preach to your kids) is to trust your instinct, your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, and do what you can to get out of that situation. So why aren’t adults having these conversations with other adults when they know someone may be put into such a situation – especially when it involves dating and another person can get hurt?
I wrote about this topic a few years ago. I remember, because I provided examples that happened to me when I was dating. It doesn’t seem like much has changed, because I am still receiving emails on the topic. Both women and men (yes, men, too) email me about uncomfortable situations they were put in during a date and, when they told the shadchan, the shadchan didn’t seem surprised. Shadchanim knew exactly who they were redting shidduchim for and what type of people they are, but they kept that information to themselves.
This isn’t a funny and sweet article. If you don’t want your children to read it, they shouldn’t. But if the “child” is in the pre-dating age (16 or 17), it would be a disservice to them if they don’t read this article and if you don’t have “the discussion” with them.
As soon as someone you are dating acts inappropriately in any way, or as soon as you get the nagging feeling that something isn’t right, extricate yourself from the situation. It’s better to be wrong and physically and emotionally healthy, than right and wishing you did what you thought about doing when you first felt that something was “off.” But if you do need help, if you’re in an abusive relationship, call Shalom Task Force or a friend. Reach out to anyone who can help.
Talking about this or warning someone about a violent person is not considered lashon ha’ra. You are saving someone’s life. If you aren’t getting answers, you feel comfortable with from “references,” including a rav/rebbe, then turn to the friends in the dating world. The frum dating world isn’t as big as you think it is. There are only a few degrees of separation between Jews – don’t we play Jewish geography and find that you know someone whom someone else knows and you had no idea? Turn to your friends, other singles, and even other shadchanim for the answers to the questions you have. Too many times I and others have heard, “But you never asked if he/she has a temper/anger issue, so I didn’t feel the responsibility to tell you.” Yes, it happens all too often. I wish I could publish the letters in their entirety, but they are lengthy. I have published the parts I feel everyone should read, with permission from the emailers.
An excerpt from an email: “Moshe was quiet all the way back to the car and on the ride home. It was uncomfortable. I tried starting conversations, but it’s hard to have a conversation when I’m the only one talking. I asked him if anything was wrong or bothering him. He said, “No, no, everything is fine” very sarcastically. I stopped trying. It felt like I was being punished with the silent treatment. This isn’t how a date is supposed to be.
When he dropped me off, he walked me to the door, said good night, then left. The next day, I called the shadchan and told him what happened. He said he knew. Moshe called him last night and told him how I embarrassed him (which is why he didn’t want to talk to me on the drive home). I have no idea what he thought I did. I didn’t dance on tables or cuss. Moshe’s behavior and reaction to my “embarrassing moments” was like a child – not talking to me? The silent treatment?
The shadchan said he knew Moshe is very rigid, hardline, and serious, but thought he’d loosen up on a date. If he knew this, then why did he set me up with him? I’m not like that. I was originally told that Moshe had a “good personality.” Only now does the truth come out. I should have asked how Moshe reacts when he feels slighted or embarrassed?
I told the shadchan that he shouldn’t set Moshe up again until his behavior changes. I am so lucky it was only one date. I’m never using this shadchan again. He withheld important information and didn’t see anything wrong with it because “we all show anger in different ways.” He is so wrong. As you always say, his shadchan card should be taken away.”
Another email: “We were having fun. Sara was outgoing, upbeat, uninhibited. I never dated anyone like her before. Other girls aren’t as free as she is. They’re proper, always afraid to say too much or do something wrong. We went to a karaoke bar, and she wasn’t afraid to get up and sing. It was great! When I paid the tab, it was more than I thought. When I took a closer look at the bill, I saw that Sara had five drinks. I didn’t notice.
Then I thought about it: Sara was always drinking on our dates. I’m not much of a drinker, but she outdrank me on every date. I asked my sister if this is normal, if she drank when she was dating. She said no and no. Sara was never drunk but she sure knew how to knock ‘em back. My sister made a few calls and found out Sara has a reputation for drinking. It made sense. Maybe that’s why she was always fun and seemed uninhibited. She was always on liquid courage. This isn’t something I feel comfortable with.
I asked Sara if she always had to drink on dates and if she drank every day. She didn’t see why it was a problem, because she never got drunk or blacked out. That wasn’t the response I was expecting. She couldn’t see what she was doing could turn into a problem. That’s a problem for me. Drinking can get worse quickly. I don’t want to be around when things get worse, which I hope don’t.”
Excerpt three: “I couldn’t believe it; she [the shadchan] said that my daughter was lucky to date someone from such a family and I was nitpicking. My daughter was very clear: She didn’t like how Avi spoke during their date – not to her or about others. She said there were a lot of four-letter words. I’m not making a mountain out of a molehill, like the shadchan said. If he speaks like this now, when he hardly knows my daughter, and when dating is the time to impress the girl, what will he call her or say if they get married? How can she set him up anymore if she knows this?
She told me that in the “real world” people speak and act like this. She basically blamed me for sheltering my daughter from the world. I may have sheltered her, but derogatory language is never the answer. I don’t care what his last name is or what his yichus is. I’m so angry. The shadchan thought my daughter and I were overreacting. She’s thinking of the shadchanus she would be receiving if she is the shadchan to find a shidduch for him. It’s not right.”
Some may disagree with how these writers reacted, and that’s fine. But they did something when they felt that something was wrong or off. Two of the shadchanim tried gaslighting the women. During the dates, both felt what they were experiencing wasn’t right. And the shadchanim basically laughed them off. As if they’re at fault because they didn’t play 21 questions or charades when the shidduch was redt. Everyone has a temper. Everyone uses bad language. All three emailers made the right decision.
I wish hatzlachah to all.