When I was 32 and still unmarried, I had a very serious discussion with my then ten-year-old niece. I asked if she would “take care of me when I was old and gray” and unable to care for myself. She answered very confidently, “You’re kids will let you live with them. Don’t worry.” Bless her sweet heart, which was still so innocent that it had no idea that it may be shattered in a decade because of the stupidities that go on in the shidduch world! I thanked her, but told her I was being realistic, because I had almost given up on getting married and having children. I wanted to make sure I was cared for when I couldn’t take care of myself. She answered, “Put me in your will and then okay.” That was that. I could check that off my list of: what to prepare for in my golden years, im yirtzeh Hashem. I had already opened a Roth IRA years earlier. I was just making sure I had all the ends tied together for my later years. This is not a joke! The conversation actually took place. Not long after that, my sister asked that particular niece to run an errand. My niece got distracted by something and the errand was never completed. My sister laughed and said that I will be waiting and waiting for my dementia medication if I asked this niece to get it, because she will be distracted by something and I’ll be stuck in the wheelchair for hours before she remembers. Of course, we were just joking, but it was a fear that I did have. I was actually fearful of not having anyone love and care for me in my twilight years because people had written me off as an “old maid,” and shadchanim were calling less and less frequently.
As mentioned in several articles, I have self-confidence and believe in myself. That is something my parents instilled in their children; don’t give up, try hard, and believe in yourself. The problem was that in the shidduch world you are forced to rely on others who may not believe in you and may give up on you. There were many shadchanim who tried to convince me to go out with an “older guy,” because all the men my age wanted to date someone five to ten years younger. I would go out on dates, but I just knew that these older men were not for me. Some of them were comfortable in their bachelor lifestyles, some were sad cases, and others were enjoying going out with girl after girl after girl. I resigned myself that I will live a happy life, but may not get married and have a family of my own. I had to face reality. It just wasn’t happening. Every day I aged, and in the shidduch world, each day was dog years.
I have self-confidence and believe in myself. That is something my parents instilled in their children; don’t give up, try hard, and believe in yourself.
My friends in their mid-thirties and forties are telling me that they feel the same way. It is very hard to keep your head above water and a smile on your face when you have dated for decades without luck. It’s difficult when you hear from shadchan after shadchan that you won’t end up getting the type of husband that you want, that you’ll have to “settle” or not get married at all. I don’t think that shadchanim and well-meaning family members and friends realize how much of an impact their words have on others. There is only so much criticism people can take before they start to jump on the naysaying bandwagon and believe what is said about them. They believe they may never marry or are being “difficult” or will have to settle because they aren’t 25 anymore and are considered an “older single” even though they don’t feel like it.
The singles are giving up on themselves! Do you hear me? They are giving up because of what they are being continuously told. A fighter knows enough to stay down if he can’t take another punch from his opponent. Why are people making 35-, 40-, and 45-year-olds feel as though they are well past their prime? The single knows exactly what she is up against, and it is extremely hard to actually hear the words from another and to put it “out there” in the universe. No one has given you the license to tell the singles what you truly feel and to make them feel worse about their situation. Don’t you think a 40-year-old knows how old he or she is and how they are viewed in the shidduch world? But they keep putting themselves out there. They go to mixers, Shabbatons, meet with shadchanim, go on blind dates, etc. What gives you the right to make singles feel bad and to give up hope on themselves? These singles have more courage than a 23-year-old who went out a few times, got married, but now feels like a dating expert and gives advice to older relatives and friends. These singles should be commended and not knocked down! I was speaking with someone the other day and she said that she has basically given up. The shadchanim don’t call as often as they had in the past and the last few fellows she went out with were “nebachs” – her words not mine. She then said, “This is what the shadchan said is out there for me. I can’t believe it. I’d rather stay single than be told that that is what I have to look forward to.”
I felt my blood boil. All good therapists know that they don’t provide answers to their clients; they let their clients figure out the answers with their guidance. Are any of the shadchanim psychiatrists or psychotherapists that they have a right to tell a single, “This is what you’re getting. Get used to it or stop dating altogether.” If that’s the case, then change professions. I told this person not to give up. I used every cliché in the book, “You have to hit bottom before you can rise” and, “Night is darkest before dawn.” I didn’t want this person giving up on herself or resigning to settle for someone.
Note that I said settle and not compromise. We all compromise – but everyone wins something in a compromise. If you settle for something, then you aren’t winning anything, are you? I ended up telling her some of the experiences that I haven’t discussed or written about. I told her of the s’gulos I did and then still waited for my husband to come into my life. I always end the story with the following (I’ll paraphrase): “…and because of what he (my husband) experienced in his life and what I did in mine, my husband and I couldn’t have dated and married years earlier. That wasn’t the plan. Hashem has a plan and we can’t understand it. Believe me, if this happened to me and my husband, there is something and someone out there for you. Your plan isn’t finished yet.” It made her laugh and she actually agreed. She said she will take a break from dating and maybe head to Florida for a week or to the West Coast, but she needed time to get her head back on straight. She added that she needed to get some of the confidence and faith she had in herself back because she lost it somewhere along the way.
I remember my mother z”l taking my sister and me to Peter Pan, starring Mary Martin, when we were very young. I keep thinking of when Tinker Bell was about to die and Peter asked the audience to clap if they wanted Tinker Bell to live. The audience had to believe in Tink and clap in order for her to light up and sparkle again. Well, I believe in the singles and I want them to get married. I want them to believe in themselves and not give up hope. Yes, applaud them for going out time and again even if they don’t want to. Think for the singles as well. Think of who you can redt a shidduch to. Help singles believe that their dreams are still possible, of marrying and having a family. Encourage singles to not give up on themselves. They are wonderful people and I truly believe they will meet their bashert one day. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will. I think I appreciate my husband that much more because of all I had to experience before we were married than if we got married when we were 25. These “older singles” will appreciate their spouses so much more and be a better spouse because they know what it is like to live and be alone. Age is just a number; don’t let it define you or get you down. I believe in all of you. Now the community has to believe in you, shadchanim should believe in you, and you should believe in yourselves and not give up!
Hatzlachah to you all.
Goldy Krantz is an LMSW and a lifelong Queens resident, guest lecturer, and author of the shidduch dating book, The Best of My Worst and children’s book Where Has Zaidy Gone? She can be contacted at email@example.com.