In today’s times, it is expected that girls follow a system – elementary school, high school, seminary, and then shidduchim. What if, upon return from seminary, a girl (or her parents) feels that she is not yet ready to start shidduchim? How can she navigate our cookie-cutter society, which looks askance at anything that is perceived as deviating from the so-called cultural norm?
That we live in a cookie-cutter society is a fair assessment. That intense and unforgivingly forced conformity and uniformity has been crushing for untold children and adults in frum communities around the globe is also correct. That the realm of shidduchim has correspondingly been heavily impacted by the weight of culturally compelled compliance is further on point. That many single women feel fain to proceed with dating prior to even stepping on the return plane from seminary, solely as result of overt or covert pressure, is accurate as well. That countless individuals are either unready to go out at that juncture, simply need a mental and emotional breather, or have other essential goals in front of them which need to be accomplished in the interim is additionally spot-on. And that those who are deemed to have departed from whatever narrow, pre-paved road we have set before them often suffer from diminished opportunities in myriad areas of life is sadly true, too.
Fortunately, however, at least from what I am seeing lately, it is becoming increasingly more common for bochurim and their families, even those who are just starting to date, to express a preference for a counterpart who is a little more advanced in age. For some, it is a matter of basic economics and the need to have a source of parnassah early on in their marriage, an objective which is generally far easier to achieve when at least one party has nearly completed their degree or has actual earning power. For others, they have come to appreciate that there is typically an immense difference between a 19-year old and a 21-year old with respect to levels of maturity and preparedness for marriage. And perhaps, some have even deliberately dedicated themselves to lessening the burden which has been hoisted atop the shoulders of our bnos Yisroel through the vehicle of focusing their attention on those who are a few more years removed from the cradle and commensurately less callow.
To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with commencing shidduchim immediately after seminary – or after high school – if one is genuinely and fully equipped to do so. And indeed, many young women are plenty primed at that initial stage. But many, many others are not, and it is a grave disservice to both our young women and our young men for any of them to be left feeling that if they do not make the terribly self-defeating decision of dating when they ought not to be, they will then subsequently find themselves in an even more profoundly inimical position. Thankfully, there seems to have been a noticeable shift in this regard, and I think it safe for those who need a little more time to go ahead and take it.
May the Erech Apayim V’Rav Chessed infuse all of our lives with ever enhanced menuchas hanefesh u’menuchas haguf.