What Shidduch Crisis?
There has been a lot of talk recently on one of the Yahoo! Groups that I am a member of about the shidduch crisis. Comments have been made about the price shadchanim charge to set singles up, about the lack of venues for singles to meet, about the nasty things that are said to females who are not a size 2 or do not dress themselves to the nines for dates. Suggestions were also made for solutions and constructive projects in order to attempt to help alleviate this crisis in addition to attempts being made to explain the perspective and feelings of singles who sometimes get inappropriate comments made about their single status.
I was discussing it briefly with a friend, and she asked me, "Do you really think there is a singles crisis?" After thinking about it briefly, I responded that I actually think there is much more wrong with the mind-set about singles than the fact that people are actually single.
Ezzie wrote about a similar view a while back when rabbis were calling for guys to start dating younger in order to balance out the male-female imbalance in the dating circuit. He argued that this was a horrible idea, and I'm quite inclined to agree with him.
Here's what I think the issue is. Singles are given way too much pressure to marry too young, and before they are really ready to handle being married. At the age of 21, some girls are being pressured and made to feel awful about themselves because they are not yet married. 21 years old! They have so much to do with their lives, and many of them are in the middle of school or training programs. If they get married, and are forced to quit these programs, along with the pressure given to pop out a kid immediately, it is going to be very difficult for these girls to ever help out financially in their families. Couple this with the fact that guys are encouraged to learn full-time, and not be gainfully employed before getting married and you now have a couple who is untrained to work and unqualified to do much besides collect welfare. Great, that's a nice picture of a good Jewish family to display to the world.
What's wrong with encouraging women to wait a couple years before starting to date, therefore giving them the opportunity to achieve goals other than being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen? Or pushing a guy to wait to get married until he has a degree and a plan to earn a salary to support his family? Hmmm, to me it sounds like a wise and responsible plan, rather than a crisis in the making.
Furthermore, even for those singles in their late 20's and 30's - I still don't see what a huge crisis it is to be single. I have friends getting married all over the place - of all ages. It does happen and a lot of those people really know themselves and, I think, are making much wiser decisions about marriage. Likewise, they are much more economically ready to deal with the realities of supporting themselves rather than expecting their often already financially strained parents to support them.
I understand the stress of a woman in her late 30's and older, with her "biological clock" ticking and worrying about whether she will be able to have a child. But for someone in her late 20's, it's not that much of an issue. And to have rude people make comments like, "Aren't you old to not be married" (yes, I have received this one) is ridiculous. I have lots I want to do in my life. One of those things is getting married, but it is not the only thing. And honestly, I am very happy that I was not married at 19 because I like the fact that I have had the opportunity to do things other than just have kids. I want a family, but I want more than that also. And there's nothing wrong with that.
So basically, I think the crisis is in thinking that everyone needs to get married off super young. There are other things in life, and every person should be encouraged to explore his or her interests and passions. A person should not solely be steered by communal pressure dictating what one "should" be doing in life. I think if more people accept that, then they will be able to view those who are single much differently. Let people get married in their own time. Let them lives their own lives. Maybe that would also alleviate the skyrocketing divorce rate. Just a thought.
Just a note - I do know that there are other issues involved that I have not addressed, but in general, I think a shift in outlook about marriage and singles is necessary in today's Orthodox Jewish society, regardless of the other issues. It's certainly worth a try.