My son recently went out with a girl and, after the second date, asked her if he can call her. Usually, this type of thing is made up with the shadchan beforehand, but in this case, my son told me that he sensed that the first two dates went very well, and, feeling spontaneous, he decided to ask about calling.
My son is a good, responsible boy, and while I was surprised – as was the shadchan – that he took this matter into his own hands, so to speak, I was wondering what my response should have been. Should I have been proud of his spontaneity? Did he do something inappropriate?
(The girl, by the way, was surprised, but ultimately very happy. Apparently, the feelings were mutual. She also was impressed that he had the guts to do what he did.)
Setting aside standard operating procedure for a moment, the narrative presented appears to evince ample intuition and perspicacity on the part of your son. Not only in his swiftly and correctly gauging the degree of connection between himself and this young woman, but also in ascertaining her likely level of equanimity upon receiving the request he was prepared to make. These are surely favorable traits, and ones for which he is deserving of commendation. That, in my opinion, is the primary takeaway, and would become step one of the conversation in your response to this unanticipated occurrence – i.e., setting the stage with a tone of positive reinforcement.
Once that groundwork has been firmly laid, and an atmosphere of love, support, and encouragement has been crafted, I believe that step two is a constructive exchange about understanding procedure; what it means to function speculatively, and knowing when to do so; and appreciating the gamut of conceivable outcomes that may result from one’s actions.
To be clear, and as tendentious as this may seem, I do not feel that there is anything inherently infelicitous about asking a young woman if she minds communicating directly, even after a first or second date. Indeed, if a single man and woman are ready for dating and marriage, and have been brought together for the purpose of deciding whether or not they would like to spend the rest of their lives together, they are equally ready to talk on the phone with one another in order to arrange future dates and candidly discuss their interest in continuing to date one another. Nevertheless, within the construct of cultural customs related to shidduchim, the general expectation is that these sorts of logistics are maneuvered through the vehicle of a shadchan for the duration of the first number of dates. And, I believe, for rather good reason.
First, there is the matter of personal comfort. Being that we do not promote coeducational social intermingling for our Jewish youth, for many in shidduchim, this is their first experience spending time alone, or at all, with someone of the opposite gender who is not family. As such, some people need more time than others before they are ready to expansively interact with the person they are dating, sans emissary.
Second, there is the matter of adopting dating practices which will presumably offer optimal opportunities for success. Inasmuch as the amount of time it takes to warm up to another person varies widely among individuals, it is not at all uncommon for those who are highly emotional and expressive to approach the precipice of engagement after but a couple of dates, while those who are of a more reticent comportment might not arrive at that juncture until a minimum of six or seven dates have transpired.
Accordingly, there is a notable measure of security in utilizing an intermediary until both sides have been informed that they are on the same page. To begin with, it can prevent a shidduch from falling apart in scenarios where the uncertain party becomes overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the ready party, and can help safeguard against embarrassment in cases where one dater is not as enamored with the shidduch to the same extent as is their counterpart. And furthermore, should matters unpredictably take a turn for the worse, surprisingly soon after an otherwise promising start, it is generally far easier to conclude the shidduch on an amicable note when the agency of a shadchan is employed than it would be without one.
Consequently, returning to step two of the conversation with your son, I would posit that the primary goals at that point are twofold: a.) to ensure that he fully appreciates the theories and concepts which guide, and are rooted behind, our collective dating norms, and b.) to see to it that he is aware of the latent ramifications that may surface, owing to departure from those methods.
Now, with regards to the particular parting of ways from the usual that we are discussing, I would be hard pressed to say that an egregious error was committed here. That would very much depend on the specifics of the situation, along with the nature and background of the people involved. However, had the young woman been less amenable to the offer, it may have altered her view of the viability of the shidduch, and created an unnecessary hurdle in need of overcoming. And while it remains true that the offer was received agreeably, it is important to be confident that there was indeed an awareness of what was at stake before that journey into the unknown was commenced.
Provided that one is cognizant of the realities that accompany deviations from traditional mores, b’kavod, it is their right to take calculated risks when it is felt to be advantageous or apropos. If the venture achieves its objective, wonderful. And if it does not land satisfactorily, whatever the divergence may be, at least the gamble will have been undertaken with forethought, and knowing full well both if and how it could potentially backfire, and to what magnitude the possible imports of malfunction might be, if any at all.
We all need, and deserve, the latitude to make mistakes. Such is part and parcel of growth and living a healthy life. Correspondingly, identifying and seizing an unforeseen moment or opening, and acting upon it, is not fundamentally flawed behavior, it is just lacks certitude. And as long as it follows on the heels of a clear and comprehensive command of one’s circumstances, it can be an outstanding tool to wield.
May the Tzadik Bchol Dirachav aid us all, as we traverse the many crossroads of life’s decisions.