Recently, I received a shidduch call from the sister of a boy, calling to check out my good friend’s daughter. I had only good things to say about the girl, knowing her as a mature, pleasant young woman. However, the sister interrupted and asked: “Weren’t you her ninth grade teacher?”
I replied that yes, I was.
She said that she was in twelfth grade when the girl was in ninth, and she knew her to be wild and rowdy. I replied that although she wasn’t the easiest student, she was just a kid and she has matured since, which is the honest truth.
However, the sister would have none of it. She said that now that her concerns were proven, they did not need to further investigate the girl. When I delicately asked why, she replied, “My brother is still young and has long lines of girls waiting. We don’t need to waste our time on a girl with previous issues.”
Am I wrong, or is she being completely ridiculous by giving up such a gem? Did I ruin the girl’s shidduch opportunities by saying the truth? Or do I have to warn my ninth grade daughter to watch out, because people are watching from an early stage?
Any insight would be truly appreciated.
While your narrative provides a veritable potpourri of almost irresistible talking points relevant to many of the overarching flaws and issues within the universe of shidduchim in our day and age, there is more than enough to discuss in directly addressing your three closing questions. As such, I would like to look at them one by one and, hopefully, provide a measure of meaningful insight.
1. Not knowing the young woman in question, I can’t comment on whether or not this inquisitor is missing out on a gem. And, the truth is, whether or not she is a gem is irrelevant. The general pursuit of “a gem of a shidduch” is borne out of ego, not actual need, or a real desire to build a home of emesdikeh avoidas Hashem.
However, it is certainly quite possible that your former talmidah is the right shidduch for this young man, and it would, thus, very much appear that he is missing out on potentially excellent opportunities due to a rather severe case of shortsightedness on the part of his sister.
To illustrate a bit further, I would like to pose the following question. Which of the following two people has “settled” with their shidduch?
Person 1 is redd a shidduch to someone from a fine and renowned family. There is Torah and ashirus b’makom echad, all the siblings and extended family are yaarei shamayim who sailed through school and always did what was expected of them, and, to boot, both families live in the same city. The couple dates and are soon married, but are utterly miserable because they aren’t remotely compatible as husband and wife, a fact they managed to overlook because it was such “a gem of a shidduch” on both sides.
Person 2 is redd a shidduch to someone from a family that is, by and large, run-of-the-mill. The majority of the extended family is frum, a few siblings may have pushed the envelope in school, but nothing egregious, and there is minimal support to be offered. However, this person recognizes that the individual they are being redd to is a fine person who may be exactly what they need, and the family situation is workable. So, they date, they get married, they are immensely happy, and they go on to build a family of oivdei, ohavei, v’yaarei Hashem, creating the possibility for countless new generations of real and true ehrnsteh Yidden.
Now, who has settled? Was it person one or person two?
Settling doesn’t mean marrying someone who appears to come with some history or baggage; settling means marrying the wrong person. And I find it quite farcical to think that a matter as benign as a bit of rambunctiousness on the part of a ninth-grader, who has since matured wonderfully, could somehow equate to their being a “waste of someone’s time”, or be cause to discount them entirely for a shidduch.
The idea is, if the focus of one’s approach to shidduchim is how they can win the shidduch lottery, sifting through the throngs of daters vying for their attention, the potential for disaster looms heavy. Whereas, if the focal point, as it should be, is on the actual and present quality of the individual, and the level to which the two individuals seem compatible with one another, the likelihood of a bayis ne’eman to follow is far greater.
2. It would shock me greatly if the woman with whom you spoke had not made up her mind long before you even picked up the phone. Based on the sequence of events you have shared, the smart money says that there was nothing you could have done to change her mind, and she was merely probing for validation of a predetermined conclusion, all just to be yoitze zain in “proper hishtadlus”.
Although there are times where one can, and should, massage the past a little, being that your interviewer believes that she remembers your student from high school with such clarity, had you attempted to gloss over the past, or sugarcoat it, you probably would have been called out as a liar.
This may not fully take the sting out, as it always hurts when one is even remotely concerned that they may have ruined an opportunity when acting in the capacity of a shidduch reference, nevertheless, I really do not feel that this falls on you. You were, most plausibly, and quite unfortunately, simply forced into being someone else’s scapegoat.
3. The matter of warning one’s children of the consequences of youthful mistakes is a topic that is far larger than there is space for here. But, in short, the sad truth is that in many communities we are robbing our children of a measure of their youth and the opportunity to recover from their mistakes, as a result of how shidduchim are handled.
To say that one need not worry about such things is to bury one’s head in the sand, and to say that one must have their future shidduchim at the forefront of their mind from the time high school begins is to perilously perpetuate a painfully progressing status quo.
What I believe one must attempt to accomplish, is to find a way to allow their children to experience healthy growth into adulthood, without feeling stifled or suffocated – feelings which can lead to much more serious problems – and to support one’s children through their indiscretions; all while managing to somehow prevent one’s child from engaging in those infractions which were once harmless, but may now carry more significant implications in the years to come. It is no easy task, and I do not claim to posses the roadmap to succeeding at it.
May The Av HaRachamim open up for us all the paths of understanding, appreciation, and ahavas Yisroel, for all our fellow Yidden.