I have heard both men and women discuss the topic of this week’s column many times. It’s about taking time off, taking a sabbatical, or taking a vacation… from dating. Some do it because they are burned out and need to refresh their batteries. Others do it because now their life doesn’t allow for the attention and time it takes to date and get to know someone. And others just think they have been in the parshah too long, have dated everyone, been through it all, and can’t keep doing this to themselves over and over.
I received an email from a woman who at this time does not want to be in the dating parshah. She has taken herself out of it. But for some reason, those around her, not in her inner circle, but people in shul, neighbors, and shadchanim can’t understand why she would do this to herself. It’s as if they are trying to make her feel bad about her decision and want her to “come to the dark side,” their side. No matter how many times she tells people that she isn’t interested, they push on, peppering her with statements and questions almost as if what she is doing is completely unbelievable. It’s come to the point where she feels that people are asking her, not out of love, care, or concern, but just to be a yenta – and she can’t stand that. Her letter is very blunt, clear, and to the point.
I am allowing her to write her truth here.
I don’t want to be rude, but I find it extremely intrusive when people continue to ask me “Why” questions after they learn that I am currently not interested in dating. It’s like I told them something that is so unbelievable that they have to follow up with questions to make sure they didn’t mishear me.
I dated off and on for years. At times, I thought I found my “the one,” but it wasn’t right. I went through mending my broken heart and starting over. I’m just over the whole thing. It’s not that I want to concentrate on my career and climb the corporate ladder. I don’t want to live life to the fullest and take vacations to exotic destinations, traveling the world, not having to worry about my family. It’s simple: I am not interested in dating and marrying anyone now.
I am very well aware of how old I am, for those of you who keep reminding me. I know that in a few years, I won’t be “prime dating material,” and if I want children, I better start making some changes in my thought process. But I don’t care. I have to do what’s right for me. And for those saying, “She’s confused”: No, I’m not. This decision feels better than ever saying “yes” to a date. I don’t think this is “a phase” I am going through, as my aunt keeps telling my parents. This is just what I am doing right now.
My parents, siblings, and close friends accepted this and don’t ask (anymore) if I’m sure this is the right step for me. They don’t try to sneak talk about a shidduch into a conversation. Why is it so hard for those who don’t know me, or don’t know me well to accept this? Is this so unheard of? I would say that I am in the minority of frum women who think this way, but there are some of us out there. “What about marriage without kids, or without kids for a few years?” Didn’t you hear me? I am not interested in dating now. I am very happy living the life I lead with work, friends, hobbies, responsibilities, family. And it’s not that I can’t make the time to date because I am too busy. I just don’t want to date!
I couldn’t care less if I am the topic of conversation; even if I did, that wouldn’t matter, because all the yentas will still wonder why I am not interested in dating. But don’t anyone dare wish an illness upon me! “Well, she must be sick and they aren’t telling anyone. I mean what else can be the reason why a girl in her prime isn’t dating?” I have heard from a few people that some think I’m keeping a health issue a secret. Stop it! Just because you can’t understand me or my decision doesn’t mean I have to be sick, as the only way to explain the unexplainable.
I will date when I am ready, when I am ready to make that commitment to someone and to give over all of me into a relationship. Of course I don’t want to be 90 and in the nursing home with only nieces and nephews calling or making the occasional trip to visit me because they feel obligated to (“You know, we’re all she has”). I want to grow old with someone and have children and grandchildren, but isn’t it more important to do it when I’m ready for it than to go through the motions now? I don’t want to make a mistake that will affect me and someone else. I care about people too much to hurt them, and that’s what I would be doing if I dated now.
How long will I be off the market? I don’t know. It could be another month or a year. I will come back when the time is right.
Do not push your beliefs and needs onto me, and don’t try to guilt me into it by telling me, “Your parents only want to see you happy before they are gone.” First of all, my life right now fulfills me and makes me happy, and second, you don’t know what my parents want or don’t want. Plenty of people get divorced. Do you want me to marry someone only to divorce him after my parents pass away, just because you think this is the only way they can see me happy and know I’m taken care of? So, follow my very clear instructions and step back, because you don’t know me well enough to comment or to question how I live my life.
I’m not thanking people for caring enough to ask me these questions because I don’t feel that they really do care. I think they are more curious as to why I am doing what I am doing rather than really finding out how I am and sincerely caring about me.
I hope you have all heard me because I can’t make myself any clearer.
Tova M. Katzman
Tova, thank you for your letter.
I see that you want as many people as possible who know you to read your letter, because you signed off with your first and last name.
I don’t think that people don’t care and are just asking you questions because they want to get to the meat of the juicy reason why you decided not to date. I think that many of them do care and don’t want you to end up regretting this decision that feels good now, but you may realize in a few years may have hurt your chances. They don’t want you in that position. Some may be asking out of curiosity, and that’s natural for people to wonder and question what they don’t understand. If people think you based your decision because of your health and a possible illness, that is awful. Let me give those people some advice: Don’t ever wonder if someone is sick or pregnant. The answer may be unexpected, and feelings may be hurt. Plus, why would you put that thought out there? Don’t voice it and don’t say it!
Tova, I hope people will hear what you are saying. Whether or not they accept it or understand it is irrelevant. As you said, you have to live a life that makes you happy. It’s icing on the cake that your inner circle accepts this; who cares what others think? Yes, it could be annoying, but dealing with annoying, pesky things is just another part of life.
I wish you hatzlachah in whatever path you choose, and most of all, I hope you are happy.
Hatzlachah to you all.