To the Shadchan:
My older daughter got married a few years ago. The whole shidduch process went very smoothly for all of us. She was a typical kind of girl. She went to a typical seminary in Israel, came back, and started to work and go out. She had lots of friends like herself, and she wanted a typical type of boy.
My second daughter now wants to start dating. She is more of a loner, who does not have a lot of friends. There is something a little atypical about her. For instance, she doesn’t seem to be aware of fashion. (She likes to wear hats in the winter, which makes her “different,” silly as that may sound.) She also tends to be moody and emotional.
She is a good, frum girl who finished Bais Yaakov and went to seminary in America. She is now in college studying for a degree in accounting. I called a couple of shadchanim and, although there is nothing bad about my daughter, found it hard to answer their questions and to describe her in a complimentary way. I therefore suggested that my daughter call the shadchan herself. That way, she could describe herself and what she is looking for, and I wouldn’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing. I naively thought, who better to be an advocate for her?
The next day I got a phone call from the shadchan berating me. She said I should not have had my daughter call her directly. It makes a bad impression, as though my daughter is really weird or comes from a weird family. I was surprised, because the idea seemed to make sense to me. Do you think the shadchan was right? Should I change the way I am handling this situation or just look for a different shadchan?
When is it okay for singles to advocate for themselves? Does it depend on the age of the single or on something else? In our society it seems to be the job of the parents, but perhaps it can be done more effectively by the young people themselves.
The Shadchan answers:
I will try to discuss each issue in your interesting and difficult question, hoping to give you a new insight into your dilemma.
First of all, what comes across to me in your letter is that you are proud of daughter #1 but seem to put down daughter #2. You want to advocate for her but only remember the negatives. Could it be that your daughter has absorbed your attitude and feels inferior to her sister? You say she is “different” because she wears hats in the winter. So what? She wants to be warm. She is not fashion conscious? There are many girls who fit that bill. She is moody and emotional? What girl isn’t at one time or another?
So she is not your “typical” young lady, but believe me, there are plenty like her. They are simply laid back and do not like keeping up with the Joneses. Every pot has a cover, and a “different” girl will find a “different” boy. For instance, a young man once asked me for a girl who doesn’t wear makeup or jewelry. I would say that is “different.” You can see from that request that there are atypical boys as well.
Is your daughter considered “out of the box” because she is in college and is goal oriented? You do not mention if she wants a learning or a working young man. You also emphasize that she went to seminary in America. What is wrong with that? I realize, of course, that in this day and age, one of the first questions in shidduchim is what seminary did she go to? But years ago, girls did not go to Israel. If you want to learn, you can learn anywhere. Besides, when the right one comes along, it will not matter where she went to school. This is meaningless.
You do not write anything about her tznius, her middos, or her chesed. I am sure that she is exemplary in all of these areas, yet you fail to mention them and probably did not tell that to the shadchan either.
Now for the shadchan issue. She is right that in typical yeshiva circles a single starting out is presented by a parent. But you know what? I am not one of those shadchanim! I feel that part of the shidduch crisis nowadays is the fact that parents are too involved. It never used to be like that even in the yeshiva world. A young man was given a name and pursued it on his own. He called a reference – not more than one in those days – to find out about the family background, and that was it. There were no pictures and no questions like “what type of tablecloth is on the Shabbos table.” All this is silliness and not important in a marriage.
In my opinion, your daughter did the correct thing in advocating for herself, and the shadchan was wrong to berate you. If this one does not want to speak to her, find one who will. Not every single has to follow this new protocol. If your shadchan was not comfortable, she should have kept it to herself and not denigrated you. As long as your daughter feels that she is ready to get married, there is nothing wrong with her calling the shadchan. I would suggest that you find shadchanim who think “out of the box” and do not deal solely with “cookie cutter” prospects.
Before proceeding further, though, you should sit down with your daughter and create a “profile” that she can present to a shadchan. Let her stress all her positive attributes and the kind of guy she really wants – whether it is learning or working or less mainstream – and forget about all the other silliness.
It would further be in the best interest of both of you for you to accept your daughter the way she is and value her differences. She will find her zivug in the right time no matter who the shadchan is and despite the fact that she is not conventional.
I wish you hatzlacha and nachas from your entire family.