My daughter is 19 years old and back from two years of seminary. She is a capable, mature, solid girl who knows what she wants and the direction she wants to go in. We are also looking forward to help supporting her family for a while in order to allow her husband to learn seriously with hasmadah and allow her to finish her degree. Her seminary friends from Europe are getting engaged at lightning speed, while her counterparts back here in America are going at a snail’s pace.
One huge hurdle we are encountering constantly is the fact that she is 19 and no boys who are learning want to even look at a 19-year-old. They are being advised to look for older girls. I understand that there is a movement to help marry off older girls and we should be doing all we can for everybody. My question is why we have to pigeonhole people into a number. Why do we have such a tendency to judge on such trivial criteria?
There are plenty of people who are much more mature than their age and plenty of people who are much less mature than their age. I just fear that this is going to create another shidduch crisis in other ways. In my day, it was desirable for a girl in shidduchim to be a bit younger in order to keep certain natural balances (emotional, maturation, etc.) in check. I understand that the population numbers have been changing, but people are humans, not statistical formulas to plug into a formula. Maybe there are plenty of older girls out there who wouldn’t still be single if there wasn’t a stigma about being older. Can’t we just allow age to be a minute detail instead of a shidduch-breaker?
Of course, everything is bidei Shomayim, but maybe we are trying to control too much and are messing up His Handiwork.
A Concerned Mother
Rather than directly answer your question, I would like to provide some perspective which I hope will be helpful and taken in the light which it is intended. Namely, to ease some of the pain and concern you are experiencing.
To begin with, you referred to your daughter and her counterpart’s progress in shidduchim as “going at a snail’s pace.” Admittedly, I do not know the specifics of your daughters situation; how long she has been entertaining shidduchim for, how many dates she has gone on, or how many phone calls she has received. However, It does not appear to me that a young woman recently back from seminary and only 19 years old could be dating for long enough to apply the phrase at a snail’s pace. I understand that the pressure of being in the shidduch parsha may make it feel that way, and I cannot say exactly at what point that phrase would be applicable, but it would seem that it is not 19.
We all know how difficult the shidduch parsha is, especially so those in the very middle of going through it, and the inherent stress that comes along with marrying off one’s children. The time-crunch can fast become overbearing, but I would recommend that you not let it overtake you this quickly. If you can allow yourself some breathing room, which you are certainly entitled to, it may may take off a great deal of the stress you are feeling.
Additionally, throughout your question, you referred to only two possible ages of young women in shidduchim. Either 19, or “older.” I fear that it is quite hurtful for many singles to to see that word used as a descriptor for any single who has passed 19 years of age, and if we are going to use that term, there is quite a lot of space in between 19 and “older.” I would be very hesitant to consider saying that 19-year-olds not getting immediately married would be creating another new shidduch crisis, and I could hardly see a greater bracha for Klal Yisroel than a reality where the only single young women to be found were 19 years old.
While I understand the anxiety you are feeling, I am concerned that it is premature for it to be helpful for you to be experiencing it so acutely. Please keep in mind that it may be damaging for you, and certainly for your daughter and her counterparts at 19 years of age, to be overcome with anxiety at this point. Instead, I truly feel that you would both be much better served viewing things from a point of hope and vision. For example, your daughters ability to get through some of her schooling on her way to a degree, before she gets married, will prove invaluable in the very near future. You say that she knows what she wants and the direction she is looking to go in, but a little more time for self reflection and development may, in fact, strengthen her in preparation to become the best wife and mother she can be, b’ezras Hashem.
In short, remind yourself that your daughter is in fact still quite young, and b’ezras Hashem has tremendous opportunity lying in wait ahead of her. Try to maintain a sense of hopefulness for what the future has in store, and may Hashem see that your daughter finds her bashert b’mihayrah u’bkarov.