As the mother of a boy, I would like to raise a problem that I face while trying to gather information about a girl. Too often, I call a reference who answers the phone, and I tell her that I am calling for shidduch information. Before even giving her the girl’s name, she says, “Sorry, I can’t speak right now. I am just sitting down to dinner / putting my kids to sleep / in a car full of girls / in a store…”
People must realize that giving shidduch info should be a priority. If someone calls, give the info right then. If you need more time, call back right away.
Don’t wait… The girl may lose her chance. I may just go on to the next girl.
While those who are being called upon as shidduch references bear a great responsibility to the single men and women whom they are representing, and must never treat the endeavor lackadaisically or apathetically, I would like to offer some perspective from the other side of this equation, in an effort to hopefully restore some balance to the narrative.
1. Within the confines of the relationship between the maker and receiver of such calls, the one placing the call is asking for a favor, not a doing a favor. The person on the other end is not the one who needs a date. They are benefiting both the person they are speaking to, and the person they are speaking of. Thus, in either direction, they are doling out kindness. And when one is asking someone else for help, it is incumbent upon the inquirer to accord genuine respect and gratitude to the person they are beseeching for assistance, not exude entitlement as a result of their perceived stature in the hierarchy of shidduchim.
2. Shidduch calls are often lengthy, almost always demand full concentration, and generally touch on some pretty heavy topic material. They truly require the utmost conscientiousness of the one responding if they are to be handled efficiently and effectively. And being that shidduch references do not get 3-hour courtesy alerts on their phones before the incoming call arrives, offering them the ability to maneuver and clear out their schedule, it is nearly always a surprise attack of sorts. When one is serving as a reference, they need a clear head, the capacity to gather their thoughts, a reasonably quiet location, and sufficient time to get the job done right. As such, needing to postpone and reschedule is rather common, and as long as the dialogue resumes after a reasonable interval, no grave injustice has been perpetrated.
3. Insofar as it is all but axiomatic that frum families lead exceptionally busy lives, I am sure we can all relate to the experience of picking up an unexpected, albeit important, phone call, and simply lacking the time and bandwidth that the conversation commands. When someone notes that there is a child screaming bloody-murder and clawing at their face, or that they are smack in the middle of a mind-bending work fracas, that is probably exactly what is going on.
Accordingly, it should not take a particularly expansive imagination to appreciate that perhaps now, in actuality, is not a great juncture for a serious discussion that will heavily impact the future life of someone who is near and dear to the person being probed for sensitive information. When that is the position someone is in, deferring the discussion for a more opportune moment is neither an act of prevarication, nor does it exhibit lack of proper prioritization. It evinces understanding of accountability towards others, and a firm, keen grasp of the reality of the magnitude of their duty. Indeed, it will in no way benefit either party if the exchange is made under duress or in an uncomfortable and harried fashion.
4. Lastly, and most importantly, thinly veiled threats of potential opportunities becoming desiccated, or being stripped away from single women, on account of references not snapping to attention like soldiers to a general, is petty, small, and supercilious. Worse yet, issued in a public venue, it only adds to the already extant pressure and apprehension our bnos Yisroel are frequently subjected to. It is more than enough to have to worry that one’s own minor foibles, their family status, or simply the fact that they occupy space in a crowed and competitive landscape may somehow bring about suboptimal ramifications. There really is no need to add insult to injury by implying that trivial forces entirely beyond the control of these women are also being held against them. A little more compassion will go a long way.
May the Racheim Al Amo infuse us all with profound warmth, care, and humanity as we interact with our precious compatriots, the beloved members of His Am Segulah.