What the Olympics taught me about shidduchim:
I know that this may be one of the first British blog posts on frumsatire but here goes. Despite the common belief that we all drink tea at 4pm on Sunday afternoon, have met the queen personally and roughly attend the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace at least once a week, there is a lot in common between the problems faced by the “orthodox community” in the US and UK. I feel at times, and from reading this site often enough, that in fact the UK, having a much smaller Jewish community, has microcosmic versions of those same issues faced in the US.
Many articles on here have focused around the problems with shidduchim in the “orthodox community”, pressure on singles and the ridiculous notion that orthodox men and women shouldn’t even be able to see each other until they are virtually already under the chupah etc.
The Olympics in London were definitely hated and feared by many living here before they took place, but I can now say that I really enjoyed them (they almost displaced my love of football/soccer and I’m English!!) and they certainly proved doubters like me wrong. Having not long finished, I feel there are some serious (and not so) lessons we can take from the games to this regularly proclaimed “crisis” that shadchanim, community leaders and Jewish media columnists feel the need to constantly remind us of.
First the fear of the unknown. Yes the Olympics were a daunting and unpredictable thing to host, with many fearing transport melt-down, terror attacks and just good old British crappiness bound to take place. However, 2.5 weeks after they began they have been seen the world over as fun and a major success by everyone who took part, attended or watched. While I am not advocating the “leap of faith” argument (which is also flawed) creating a culture of risk aversion over often trivial concerns (such as how long X has been in yeshiva or if he wears a hat) is proving to actually worsen the future in the world of orthodox dating.
Second the importance of inclusivity. I have seen on this site many instances of people being denied the chance to go out for a shabbos meal because singles of the opposite gender are heading there also and chas veshalom you may look or worse talk to them. The Olympics were the exact opposite, inclusive all the way. I am no champion of feminism (I’m a guy) but at the same time was pleased to see that both genders could compete in pretty much every sport, with some new additions such as Nicola Adams winning the first women’s boxing gold medal. And more, Saudi Arabia, the country that gave us Salafism and OBL even had women competitors at the Olympics (shock horror). So this “orthodox” culture of exclusion and separation that has grown (alarmingly) over the past few years, doesn’t exactly promote a harmonious future or solve said “crisis” that those people listed above complain of (how ironic).
Third would have to be time pressure on dating and marriage. “What you’re 22 and not married?? Are you gay? Or is there something wrong?”. While many self-proclaimed BS “shidduch psychologists” attempt to get into the minds of young adults in their community who in my opinion are just trying to be ‘normal’, I sit here and sigh that those who are choosing to wait for whatever the reason are deemed to have a “curable illness”. Do you know how many young guys and girls are deeply hurt by these “helpful” assumptions that they have something wrong with them by shadchanim? Both have been known to be driven into the deepest depths of depression because they have been fixed with this “outcast” label. So what a guy wants to sort a career, or that girl has not yet found what she wants in a guy? In the Olympics by contrast the Lesotoho men’s marathon runner – Tsepo Ramonene finished last in the race. Did the crowd sit there and boo him? Whisper to each other “what’s wrong with him?” or “why is he so late?”, no they did not! Actually he was applauded and cheered just the same as the previous 85 or so finishers of that race. Back to the “orthodox world”, if these so called “helpful” people really wanted to assist young singles then they would applaud and respect people for choosing to pursue their life goals as well and understand that it does not matter where you finish in the “race” as long as you get there in the end. A lot less hurt, psychological problems and social out-casting would take place if this attitude were adopted.
Fourth in the list would have to be the subject of cheating. In the Olympics many athletes have been caught using performance enhancing drugs over the years or match fixing to get easier opponents such as the Chinese badminton doubles at London 2012. At these sporting events the utmost importance is placed on investigating, tracking down and prosecuting/punishing those who use “dirty” tactics to make them win or finish higher up. By contrast in the orthodox dating world, those who lie and cheat to make themselves look better are always placed nearer the “top of the pile”. Worse still, this is often perpetuated by the shadchan (in whom one is supposed to trust) who then passes this lie over to some poor, unsuspecting prospect of the opposite gender. Why is this encouraged? How does it help the community in the long term? Seriously! Even recently the amount of guys I (used) to know who claimed to be serious learners, then went on and falsely advertised themselves and subsequently married girls who expected that of them, are now desperate to get out of their boring lives and come back to work or even dare I say go to university is a pretty major proof of this. I mean if we want to stop the increasing orthodox jewish divorce rate in young couples, surely this is something worth fixing?
And finally a look at the athletes themselves. A lesson can be taken from quite a few of them and their life stories to inspire young jewish adults in the world of dating/shidduchim, more so than the trash found in the jewish press’s “shidduch” columns. David Rodesha the Kenyan who won gold and set a new world record in the 800m is just such a man. A softly spoken, polite young guy of 23 (not jewish sorry) who won a great victory by running an absolutely flawless race in the eyes of almost every athletics critic and pundit (commentator) to get the greatest prize. Did he run around looking for attention after his victory? No he was simply quietly proud of it and those who knew what they were looking for in athletics commentary appreciated that fact. The lesson from that is don’t listen to the trash about how much “you need to change” according to shadchanim to “fit in”, simply stick to what you do, give it your very best and be yourself and somehow someone out there who knows what they are looking for will see those qualities in you! Mo Farah came from war-torn Somalia with nothing at 8yrs old. He just became a double gold medallist at these games. How? In his own words “you just have to keep pushing and grafting and then you will get there”. He triumphed despite all his doubters, so people out there should take heart from this and be determined to prove their doubters (shadchanim et al) wrong. And finally Usain Bolt, the ultimate performer and winner who just constantly works hard and pushes himself beyond what any normal human being is capable of. He is living proof that everyone has unique abilities and each person can be “great” by majoring on their special gift they were given rather than trying so hard to “fit in” to a shadchan’s “ideal world” of being like “everyone else”. This and that he got half the women’s Swedish handball team to go to his room without asking, but hey I guess life’s not always been fair!
Hey Hesh, why all the guest posts?
I know there wasn’t much warning for this blogcation, but I didn’t know I was going to be working 70 hours this week, so while I’ve racked up some good overtime so far, my week will not be over until Sunday afternoon and standing on your feet 15 hours straight does wonders to your mind. I don’t even have time to ride this week (I rode once so far and normally ride 3-5 times) and apparently next week I have off a couple days and those will spent in the Sierra high country – backpacking and mountain biking.