June 8, 2024
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June 8, 2024
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A Closer Look at 30+ Dating in the Orthodox World

Why are some people single longer than others? What happens as people age in the Orthodox Jewish community and they’re not married with children? While this missive does not really answer those questions, I hope it can provide some useful observations, bring more awareness to what goes on behind the scenes, and, perhaps, help in some small way.

To gain some insight and perspective for this piece, I interviewed some single men and women and a few people who married in their mid-30s. Before I jump into things, it is important to note one glaring issue that stuck out to me: a fear of being forgotten. Some people (and please notice I’m saying some) get married; they move into a frum community; they have kids; they have their jobs; they get very consumed with their lives; and may forget their friends who are single. Out of sight, out of mind. This is obviously not true for everyone, but it is felt by some single people.

A married person might retort: “How can you say this? I haven’t forgotten them, I just don’t have anyone to set them up with!” The simple answer is to just keep the lines of communication open. They’re regular functioning adults going to work every day just like you.

When talking about age, one woman said, “There’s constantly a new batch of younger girls coming out for the 30-year-old guys, so they don’t have to go for the girls closer to their age.” Is this true? To test this theory, I asked a guy in his mid-30s if he would consider going out with a girl his own age. He said, “Age is not a determining factor, but if she’s older than me she’d better be pretty damn good-looking.”

Look, I know that physical attraction is very important to a relationship, and I’m assuming he only said this to me because this was anonymous. However, from his answer, it is clear that age is a serious determining factor for him. Either that or looks are paramount. Granted, this is one guy. Age can be a big factor and work against older women. One guy said, “According to current social conventions, men can date younger women, so their pool of potential dating people gets bigger over time, while for women it is the opposite.” It looks like that one woman at the beginning of the paragraph was correct.

Touching on physical attraction, I know it is a very important part of a relationship. But what one person may find attractive may turn off another completely. I have heard of older women turning down perfectly eligible men because they were “too short.” I heard a man turning down a woman because “she’s a redhead.” I understand why a person may say no to Mike Wazowski, the pint-sized cyclops from “Monsters, Inc.” (played by heartthrob Billy Crystal). Is it not enough to be handsome or pretty?

Why does it seem that guys never get back to the people who are trying to set them up? One guy described feeling like he was being harassed by used-car salesmen. In his defense, he couldn’t possibly say yes to all of them at once. At the same time. he didn’t want to “close out” any matches because he felt he didn’t give all of them a fair chance.

Another guy explained it using a business approach: Imagine that a CEO of a business gets hundreds of resumes a day. He can’t possibly look through all of them; forget about getting back to all of them! A third guy admitted to being guilty of this and said, “Sometimes I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and didn’t have an answer yet,” and “Sometimes I was going to say no and felt uncomfortable about that for some reason, so avoided the situation as long as possible,” and “Sometimes when I had a few offers at the same time I would wait for the answer from the one I had decided to say yes to first. Didn’t want to close off a good option if the answer was a no.”

It all comes down to choices. “There are too many choices out there. How can I possibly pick who is right for me?” said no girl. Ever. Though this may be a problem for some guys who do get inundated with profiles of eligible women. And it’s a real problem! The “too much choice” dilemma actually had a study done on it. It showed that when there was a “choice overload” people had a harder time making a decision. Rather, when there were fewer choices, it was easier to decide on something.

A GUY thinks, “What if something better comes along? So I shouldn’t say yes to everyone.”

A GIRL thinks, “What if nothing else comes along? So I have to say yes to everyone.”

Why is it that there are so many more choices for men than there are for women? Someone suggested that as men get older, it’s harder to stay frum since there are too many things expected of a frum man, so the older guys seem less frum while the girls are “staying strong.” Another person said that men have stronger “urges” than women and are therefore not interested in dating women with stronger convictions. Additionally, a man typically bears the weight of financial responsibility. Some guys who didn’t have it all together when they were 27 were hard to set up; now that they are 35, they won’t be set up. This creates a smaller pool of eligible men.

Even these “eligible men” said that single life was “unpleasant.” One man thinks he married later in life because it took time to open up. He also remembers being turned down for financial reasons because he was in rabbanus. Another guy said he had a very grueling career for a few years that took a lot out of him and he was “stressed and exhausted and didn’t have a lot left over for anything else.”

One girl’s answer to why some guys may feel no urgency to get married is because they have it easy being single. There’s no commitment. They can go out with a girl, perhaps have a physically intimate relationship, and then not be tied down and continue their single living as they please. If this sounds far-fetched, an interviewee had gone on a first date with a mechanech, which seemed to be going well but ended abruptly when she refused to go home with him that night.

One girl told me a few reasons why a guy said no to her through the shadchan after a date:

1. “He got along with you too well.” Isn’t that the point?

2. “He didn’t feel that Disney connection.” I have no words for this one.

3. “She has a shidduch profile.” Huh?

There are obviously different ends of the spectrum. One girl said that while she wants to get married, she is not “plagued” by her singlehood. “I don’t think of it as a problem that I’m single.” She added that married people have to stop thinking of single people as “nebach.”

I hear how I’m coming off more from the plight of women, so I’m going to capitalize on that and leave a message for any single guys out there who may be reading this: Try saying “yes” to someone who doesn’t quite fit your mold. At this point maybe your mold isn’t working for you. Go out of your comfort zone a little bit. You may be pleasantly surprised. And please, at least respond to people making suggestions.

I recognize that after reading this piece there will be many people whose experiences do not perfectly reflect what is written here. Please remember that in any broad article, idiosyncrasies will be lost. However, these are the general trends I have observed.

I want to end with a beautiful quote from a friend who got married in his mid-30s. When I asked him why he thought he got married later, he gave me a few reasons and then added: “The most obvious one—I just didn’t meet the right person … until I met her. Sometimes it isn’t that anyone did anything wrong or any other reason than just getting lucky and meeting the right one.”

Ahuva is a pediatric physician assistant. She lives in Fair Lawn with her husband and three children.

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