I like to think that I am a fair person and I don’t want to hog the spotlight. I think everyone should have their chance to speak and to be heard (if what they have to say has any substance to it). I receive many emails from singles. One email I received cried out to me, and I asked the sender if I can print it. This is an email that speaks about everything that I have written about and it’s from a single! Yes, I dated for many years, but I’m married now, and while I have not forgotten how I felt going out on dates or how some people treated me as an older single when I didn’t feel like an “older” single, or how it felt to watch from the sidelines while my friends walked down the aisle to their chupah and I was having a dating dry spell, how it felt to go on living a well-rounded life while waiting to start a new life with my would-be husband – I am now married. I want my column to be a forum for all who want to voice opinions. This email is from a single who embraces her single status but yet yearns to be part of a couple. Yes, you can be happy as a single, live life to the fullest, and still want to be married. It’s not as if being single is synonymous with being miserable and jealous of others. I am sure many can relate to what the author of this letter is feeling. I feel like posting this email on a billboard or shouting it out from the rooftops. Please read on.
I want to let you know that I turn to your column first before I read anything else in the Queens Jewish Link. I love how you tell it like it is and pull no punches. Others should learn from you, but they don’t. They still play the shidduch game, and you are a breath of fresh air in what can be a suffocating world for a frum single looking for a shidduch. I will take a page from your book and tell you from the start that I am 43, 5 foot 8, a CPA, share an apartment with a good friend, and want to get married but don’t consider shidduch dating a hobby.
Don’t get me wrong; I want a family. I want to be someone’s best friend and confidante and someone’s “mommy,” but it hasn’t happened yet. I daven every day for my wish to be granted, but until it comes true, I’m going to live my life to the fullest and not apologize for who I am and what I do. When I am able to take a vacation I like to go and see the world. I have been to Israel, Italy, India, France, China, and Thailand. I enjoy scuba diving, have bungee-jumped, climbed mountains, and basically done everything you can do as a tourist in all these different countries. Yes, I have been to Israel and all the sites there, but I don’t trek to Israel and Amuka every year to daven for my zivug while sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. I will be more than happy to settle down and be a good wife and mommy when the time comes. I want to have stories of different adventures I have been on to tell my kids. I want them to see the pictures of me riding camels, in an Indian market buying ornate scarves, on the Great Wall of China, whitewater rafting, etc. But my excursions have drawn criticism from more than a few people for my “wild ways.” I wouldn’t refer to myself as wild. I take these trips with other frum single women, and we don’t go crazy acting like college kids on spring break. We conduct ourselves in the proper way, not to bring embarrassment to America or to make a chilul Hashem.
A few shadchanim have told me that it’s hard enough to get a tall guy for me to date (I’m willing to date someone 5 foot 6, but I am told that shorter guys don’t want a girl taller than they are), and to add that I have gone “traipsing all around the world” – that’s the word that was used – makes it even harder. Not only shadchanim have said this to me, but some of my relatives as well. Do they want me to sit at home waiting for my husband? Do they want me to vacation only in Florida or Israel? Why can’t I live my life? Why can’t I see what this world has to offer and interact with people from different cultures? I have learned so much on my travels and I can only hope that some of the people I have met along the way have learned something from the “Jewish American girl” they met. Thankfully I make a very good living, so I am able to afford some luxuries now that I may not be able to afford when I am married when there are many bills to pay. I hope I will be able to have extra money lying around, but I won’t know for sure. I have put away money and have invested, but now why can’t I invest in myself? I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 37. My friends were very happy that I took a big step and was moving out. But I also heard from some people who said, “Guys will think you’re too independent if you have your own place. Sometimes they prefer it if the girl is still at home.” I understood what they were saying, but I was 37! And why couldn’t I move out? My parents gave me their blessing, I still go home for a couple Shabbasos a month, and I was able to afford my half of the rent. Because some people thought it can cost me a date or two, I should stay in “mommy and daddy’s house”? No thank you. If a girl hears that a guy still lives at home at 37 or 40, we wonder “what’s wrong with him.” But if a girl moves out, we think that she has an issue? That’s not right and I don’t like the double standard.
“Why am I being made to feel as if I am doing something wrong by living my life as best as I can?
This whole system is crazy and it’s crazy
that I even have to write such a letter”
Why do I have to wait, as if I am in a doctor’s office, and let life slip by just because I am waiting for my husband? I met with a shadchan last year and was asked if I would be able to “settle down” when I got married. I asked her to explain what she meant. The shadchan said that because I always seem to be traveling, will I be able to “stay put” with my husband and focus on the marriage and family. What? I really couldn’t believe that I was being asked that question. I told the shadchan that I am not a jet setter, constantly flying off to exotic locales. I go away twice a year for one week, that’s it. The way the shadchan worded the question made it seem as if I don’t have my priorities straight. I do have my priorities in order. But am I supposed to sit still until my life “begins” and that will only happen after I am married? Many times I’m told that the guys I’m being redt to are “worldly.” I not sure what that means, but I’ll match my passport to theirs any day.
I’m told I have a few issues that aren’t in my favor before I even go out with a guy. The first is my age, the second is my height, the third is that I have moved out of my parents’ house, and the fourth is I like to travel. I can’t believe that these “issues” are seen as negatives. In the secular world there would be absolutely nothing wrong with me. Am I only supposed to know about Jewish history and the tourist hot spots of America and Israel? Is that what men want? A cousin of mine joked by asking that when I do (“eventually”) get married, where will I go on my honeymoon, since I am not leaving many options opened for my husband as I’ve been everywhere? I told my cousin that that was one of the most foolish things she has ever said.
Goldy, what is going on? Has everyone gone insane? Is this still the Victorian era and there are rules to follow in courtship? Tell you what: My single friends in their 40s who are still living at home don’t go out with guys more often than I do, and they don’t have an easier time with shadchanim than I do. So what these people are saying is false. They are just providing their unsolicited advice and useless opinion. Their word isn’t gospel. I wish they can hear how they sound: “Don’t vacation with friends, don’t act like a grown-up by moving into an apartment, and wear flats because guys don’t like tall girls.” Ugh!!
I know people mean well, but can’t they please keep quiet? I’m trying to navigate the world where it’s the norm for a 20-year-old to get married and where it’s the norm to live with your parents and sleep in your childhood bed until you get married, whether that be at 25 or 45. It’s insane! I do want to be a Mrs. to someone’s Mr. (to quote you). I want to host Shabbos meals as a balabusta and I want to plan day trips for my family during Chol HaMoed, but it hasn’t happened yet! Why am I being made to feel as if I am doing something wrong by living my life as best as I can? Goldy, you understand. This whole system is crazy and it’s crazy that I even have to write such a letter. It’s crazier still that I feel that I have to explain myself and my life, time and again. I don’t want to explain why I live a “normal life” anymore! You speak the truth. I share more than half of your opinions. Help me, Goldy. I just needed to be heard once and for all. Thank you for all you do and keep on doing it. Maybe one day people will really listen and change their close-minded ways of thinking.
Penina, thank you for your letter. Wow! That was some letter!
Do not apologize for living your life! Do not apologize for seeing all the sites and wonders that Hashem created. You will have amazing stories to tell your children and grandchildren, and they will love to hear about Mommy/Bubby’s adventures. You do not need my “help” at all. I think you have your head on straight and you aren’t doing anything wrong.
People criticized me for writing my book about how shidduch dating really is. They said it would cost me many dates because “guys won’t want to worry about ending up in another book.” I would always say, “I only wrote about the worst of the worst dates and it’s not so easy to write a book. Unless they are planning to do something awful on a date with me, they are safe.” I also always said that my future husband won’t be embarrassed or cringe about the book. I had a feeling he would actually be proud that I had the gumption to write the book and tell everyone what is actually happening. And I was right; my husband loves that I speak my mind. Penina, your future husband will love and embrace your independence and your adventurous side but will understand that you did that as a single woman and are ready to be part of a couple. The two of you will embark on new adventures together. He will know that you aren’t afraid to take risks, which is great because sometimes life is scary and you have to take risks.
Penina, I actually have a friend very similar to you. She is adventurous and is always going off to some country on a vacation. She sends us pictures of her in all of these exotic locales and I think it’s absolutely wonderful. Just like my friend, you don’t want a regular pencil pusher black and white thinker for a husband. You need someone who thinks out of the box and can keep up with you and someone who will keep you on your toes as well. Let the naysayers continue to whine; perhaps they are jealous of your excursions. Don’t apologize for being you!
You are right: People have to stop being close-minded and stop thinking that you have to live with mommy and daddy until you’re married and you can’t do any fun things when you’re single because life doesn’t begin until the glass is broken. They have to stop telling singles what to do and how to conduct themselves in order to get married and just let people live their lives. The world is different from when our parents dated. Times are changing and, as we know, people don’t like change and often they fight it. Penina, you are my champion. I wish I had tales to tell my children and grandchildren of what I did when I was single, besides dating. You go be you! Don’t apologize and don’t explain it. If you have to explain it, those people will never understand. But there are those out there who do “get it.” I get it. I wish you much hatzlachah and fun on your travels, but I also hope you find your zivug soon.
May other singles read Penina’s letter and let her inspire them to take a chance and do something they wouldn’t normally do. Don’t let life pass you by while looking on from the “sidelines.” Let shadchanim and the naysayers read Penina’s letter and cheer her on for living her life and seeing all the wonders of Hashem’s beautiful world and taking chances.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.