I have touched upon this subject before, but considering the number of emails I have been receiving on the topic, I realized it had to be revisited. As I’ve always said, I am not a feminist, nor will I ever be. I will never participate in a conversation that bashes men and claims that women are the superior sex. That’s not me. So don’t be misled after you read the title of this article and think that I am about to write something to empower only women in the shidduch parshah. Wrong! I want everyone to be empowered and to be able to advocate for himself.
I have always said that no one can advocate for you better than you can! That is true in all facets of life, not just with shidduchim. I’m talking about in school, work, and with friends. But while we are on the subject, I’ll just add that I’m not a fan of saying, “Women supporting women.” I am a fan of people supporting people no matter what sex or race the other person is. Period. By saying one sex supports the same sex (as in voting for Hillary just because she’s a woman) means that you aren’t supporting the person with the best ideas, or who is the smartest; you support certain people just because they share the same body parts as you do. I know some women who are the exact opposite of smart. Why would I support or side with them if they were arguing with someone who happened to be a male who was smarter and making better points that she was making – sorry, it’s true.
Back to the point of the article. When I started dating and meeting shadchanim, I felt like I was selling encyclopedias door to door. I’d plaster a smile on my face and start telling strangers why they needed to add my shidduch profile to their files and why they needed to redt shidduchim for me. For over a decade, I had a five-minute monologue memorized, telling all who cared to listen who I was, what I was looking for, and what I wasn’t looking for. Not to mention all the singles events I attended (with and without friends), trying to smile at all times, make small talk, avoid eye contact with those that I thought looked weird, and try to convince the fellows in whom I was interested that they needed to take me on at least one date to find out that they needed me in their life full time. It was exhausting! But I couldn’t retire. I had my eye on the prize (a husband) and I trusted myself (and my mother) to speak about what I was looking for and what type of person I was.
Shadchanim are resources and can probably rattle off dozens of names of singles that they have helped or are trying to help. But when they started rattling off the dozens of names or when they brought out their binders that are busting at the seams, I knew that I wouldn’t be a priority for them. Yes, they would try to find a shidduch for me, but I would always feel like I would have to get out there myself and not only rely on a very busy shadchan to find me a husband.
I felt and I still feel that in order to be successful in the shidduch world (or in any part of your life) you have to get out there. Don’t just sit in your house waiting for a shadchan to remember you and for him or her to call. And being successful does not solely only mean getting married. You have to go out and be seen and maybe even create a little buzz about yourself. Believe me, I had plenty of buzz around me once my book was published (although some of it was not true). Only you can advocate properly for yourself and get what you want. Be your own PR firm. Examples of advocating for yourself can be envisioning the dream job you want and then going to an interview for that job and telling the interviewer why you would be the best candidate for the position, or maybe marching in to your boss’ office and telling him or her why you deserve the raise or promotion that you never seem to get.
In order to accomplish the provided scenarios, you need to feel empowered to do this, to advocate for yourself. I believe that the first step to advocacy is empowering yourself! One of the meanings of the word empowerment is to make people stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their lives and claiming their rights. I never heard of a timid or shy person being empowered and fierce to claim what he or she wants. But as the old adage says, “Nice guys finish last.” You want to get married? You want to date the type of person who you feel is appropriate for you and not a name chosen out of a binder from a shadchan you met once? Then advocate for yourself! Take control of your shidduch life and don’t be led around by shadchanim who may not have your best interests at heart.
Remember the shadchan who didn’t want me to tell the man she set me up with that she lied to him about my age because “he’ll never let me set him up again?” She didn’t have my best interests at heart. I didn’t need that; neither do you! I remember that I was fed up at one point with shadchanim and all the wrong guys I seemed to have been dating. There was someone whom I had seen around and I wanted to date him. He just seemed like my type. I sort of knew who his sister-in-law was, and I decided to take my own fate into my own hands and called the sister-in-law. After two minutes of small talk, because I had absolutely nothing to speak with her about, I got to the point. I told her I wanted to date her brother-in-law. Yes, it shocked her that I was actually calling her for myself, but I was only sure that I could rely on myself to say what I wanted, and to do my best to try to get her to convince her brother-in-law to go out with me. I was and still am my number one salesperson for me.
In the last few months, I have found out about different shidduch websites and Facebook groups that are trying to empower singles. People are tired of singles relying solely on shadchanim or third parties and giving the others the power over their shidduch parshah. These people want to empower singles and have them advocate for themselves and tell the world what they want and what type of person they are. I think this is wonderful. Singles are taking (some of) the power back from shadchanim. Shadchanim who set up meetings weeks after you first contact them, shadchanim who never return your phone calls, shadchanim who are “helping” over 50 singles, shadchanim who tell you what you want is “unrealistic” and to settle for much less, shadchanim who tell you to lose weight or change career paths if you want to get married, etc. Is that who you want helping you? Do you really think they are helping you and remember you from all the others that have asked for help? Maybe they remember you for a week or two and make the (same) promise they tell everyone: “I know who to set you up with. I’m going to work on it. I will. If you don’t hear from me in two weeks, call me back.”
The last sentence alone should have your antennae twitching, thinking something isn’t right here. Throw them to the side and get out there and start being your own encyclopedia salesman! We are not living in the dark ages anymore. With social media being what it is today and with all that it can accomplish, singles should be doing this for themselves and networking this way. I’m starting to see this happening, but it’s in its early stages now.
I’m not taking anything away from shadchanim, but you need to start taking some action on your own, and with that you can start shaping your future instead of waiting by a phone for a shadchan to tell you that someone she met once a few months ago may be a good shidduch. Singles need to be proactive. We tell kids to get up from sitting in front of the television and Xbox and go outside to interact with real people and run around for exercise. I’m telling singles to do the same thing. Get moving and stop waiting for someone to remember who you are and to call. There are frum sites that aren’t like the usual shidduch dating sites. There are sites where you are in control, where you can set the rules, where you can find your bashert.
Yes, it does take a lot for singles to put themselves out there. Timid or shy people may not like it and may have a hard time doing so, but what have you got to lose? Nothing. You deserve the best and to get exactly what you want. Get out there and tell people what that is. Use whatever resource you have in order to empower yourself and put yourself out there.
I am not saying to abandon shadchanim, so stop your hate mail now. I’m not. I’m just telling you to get out there and begin advocating for yourself. You know what you want better than anyone, and you know how to market yourself in the particular way that you want. In addition to relying on shadchanim, begin relying on yourself to help you out of your single situation. I’m the first one to say it isn’t easy to do all this, and there is no guarantee of the outcome, but the reward is well worth it.
Hatzlachah to you all.