Wednesday, November 04, 2009

It's not just me

Two friends recently sent me the link to an article published in the New York Post:

DREIDEL ROBBERS, by REUVEN BLAU
November 1, 2009

There's an epidemic of kosher cradle snatchers -- and a group of rabbis is out to tame them.

The Talmudic titans, based here and in Israel, are calling for matchmakers to stop setting up Jewish men with much younger women, claiming the practice is leaving too many older women unmarried.

Matchmakers should set up men only with women whose ages are "within a year or two of the boy's, or even older," the 60 yeshiva rabbis declared in a letter.

The marriage missive, issued in late September, also suggested that shadchanim -- Jewish matchmakers -- concentrate on girls "age 20 and above."

Local singles bristled at what they saw as an implication that women who aren't even of the legal drinking age are already old maids.

"That mindset is the reason there's a crisis," said Allison Witty, 30, a communications director. "Women in the Orthodox Jewish world shouldn't have an 'expires by' stamp on them."

Sima Greenstein, a volunteer matchmaker in Cedarhurst, LI, had "mixed feelings" about the letter.

"When 30-year-old men say they want a 19-year-old girl, it's just unfair to the ones who are the right age for them," she said.

But, she added, "I'm not closing my doors to anybody. There are some 19-year-old girls who want to get taken by an older man."

About five years ago, the rabbis assembled an emergency meeting to address the growing number of single Orthodox women -- the so-called shidduch crisis.

Those rabbis concluded that older men marrying teen women was the primary cause.

They sponsored ads in Jewish publications promoting close-in-age matches. Some even suggested that matchmakers get paid double for making such connections.

Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, author of "The Kosher Sutra," a relationship guide, welcomed the latest edict.

"Men need to grow up," he said. "Rather than appreciating a woman who has matured like a fine wine, they often look for someone who is all cover and no book."

He said he knows many women in their 40s and 50s who have completely given up on love.

"This is getting worse because we live in a visual age. Men are only looking for wrinkle-free women," he said.

Michael Salomon, author of the book "The Shidduch Crisis," said the rabbis need to do more.

"I think this [edict] is a feeble attempt to address a situation that has never been addressed properly," said the Orthodox Jewish psychiatrist from Long Island.

He said the crisis is also reflected in spiking divorce rates and domestic violence among observant Jewish couples.

Singles are being bullied into marriage by pushy matchmakers, the therapist said.

Ilana Hostyk, 18, called it "good advice" to marry someone close in age, but noted, "When love comes around, I don't think you can place rules on it."

I don't often agree with what's published in the Post -- or with Shmuley Boteach, for that matter -- but I think this is on the money. Maybe my mother is right, and I'm single because of the frum community, not despite it.

Is it better to marry a frum man many years my senior, when I'm not comfortable with that kind of age difference, or to marry a Jewish man who's not 100% shomer shabbat? A good friend sent me what was supposed to be an encouraging email:

There is a ray of hope -- my daughter's sister-in-law is 39.75 and she finally got engaged to a man 50 years old. They met on Jwed.com

(Jwed is Frumster's dating service for non-orthodox singles.)

I know he meant well, but that's not the kind of hope I want. Which is not to say it's not what I need.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

14 comments:

  1. Your relationship with JV notwithstanding--which I continue to endorse--I don't think this problem is unique to the Orthodox community, and it's not fair to place the blame strictly at its door.

    Look at all the zillionaires/rock stars etc. who marry much younger women. I have plenty of wonderful non-Orthodox, and non-Jewish, friends who are single.

    The difference is we expect more from the Orthodox community, especially given its emphasis on marriage and family. But the Orthodox community picks up on trends in the broader society.

    Smart, accomplished women still have a hard time finding men who appreciate them. I know it's crazy, but it's true.

    As Carmen posted once, don't blame the religion for your problems, blame the individuals.

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  2. had a feeling you'd post a sentiment along those lines, FTT ;)

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  3. But, she added, "I'm not closing my doors to anybody. There are some 19-year-old girls who want to get taken by an older man."

    I love that! I'm going to stand outside a BP seminary and say, Hey, wanna get taken?!

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  4. What is the difference between an 18 year old girl marrying a 30 year old guy or a 38 year old girl marrying a 50 year old guy?

    Twelve years.

    For the 18 year old girl the 30 year old guy seems much older, 12 years is 2/3rds of her life.

    For the 38 year old girl, the 50 year old guy seems less old since 12 years is only about 1/3 of her life.

    Older men are much closer to death, statistically. They are also statistically wealthier, more powerful and thus better to provide security and protection.

    Are there many single women in their 30's because men in their 30s prefer to marry women in their 20s? Maybe.

    But look at this theory: In the ages of 18-25, most men are happy to date women of their same age give or take.

    Perhaps women who are single from 35+ missed the opportunity during the earlier years for any number of reasons.

    Perhaps during the 18-25 years 70% of the pairing up occurs and for anyone who waits until latter their is much less of anything going on.

    If this theory of mine is correct, and I wanted to manipulate society to change it, this is what I would suggest:

    1) Identify the factors that make women between the ages of 18-25 unready, unwilling, or unfit to be in a serious relationship.

    2) for each factor identify methods to change the women into someone who is ready, willing and fit to be a in a serious relationship.

    3) then take this model to society and offer kids and parents tools to identify and assist people way before they reach this age, so they come strong and prepared.

    I think the same applies to men as well.

    Your thoughts (anybody)?

    Aaron

    BTW - I was also a volunteer shadchan on SYAS for 3 years and met hundreds of singles, divorced widowed of all ages and types, so I have a little bit of experience. In addition I am also a meditation teacher and give those tools to my students to do exactly what I described above and they seem very effective

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  5. Carmen, aren't you a little over 30? ;)

    Aaron, to me 50 seems as old as 30 seemed when I was 18. And as for those of us who missed the boat between ages 18-25... maybe there are more quality women than men, and the quality men get married much younger (to women close to their ages), leaving the unattached 35+ women mostly unappetizing choices.

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  6. dreidel snatcher11/04/2009 12:10 PM

    Its an important issue that needs to be addressed, but letters to the community or twisting the shadchan's arm doesn't seem like the right approach. When I was 30 I was sort of arm twisted to date 30 year old women. I didn't really care who I dated but I didn't like the feeling that I had an obligation to date anyone. I met and married someone 7 years my younger, not because I wasn't willing to date someone my "right" age, but because that's what happened. It was fate? Kismet? My beshert? I don't know, but dating is hard to put rules to.

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  7. FTT, AMEN.

    Aaron, you're putting the blame on the women. I can see where your experience as a shadchan comes into play... making sure the women feel guilty of their own ruined lives, when it's the shadchanim and the men who are very often (note I didn't saw always) responsible. It's the WOMEN who are unready and unfit? Yes... that must really be it... of course... ::eye roll::

    Ayelet... unappetizing really does just about say it all. And I very much agree.

    --S

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  8. Also, FTT, you're assuming that the "old maids" (among whom I include myself) are all smart and accomplished.

    When I was in the psychiatric ward, my friends were very curious about the other patients. Were they as intelligent and funny and creative as I am?

    In a word, no. Some were. But most were just ordinary people dealing with a severe illness. There's nothing else that distinguishes people with psychiatric disorders from the rest of the population. We're not somehow more creative, more intelligent, more interesting because we have illnesses. If we're intelligent and creative, it'is in spite of our illnesses.

    Likewise, not all of us old maids are attractive, intelligent, accomplished, loving, funny, etc. etc. Just as not all women who get married are spectacular. Some are spectacularly mediocre.

    I used to think it was just dumb luck. Now I don't know what to think.

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  9. "Maybe my mother is right, and I'm single because of the frum community, not despite it."....

    If you weren't frum, wuld this even be anywhere near the issue it is? Maybe the "crisis" is only due to the associated "imperatives" of marriage and the ostensible pre-marital realtion restriction.

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  10. Odd Cog, all of my non-frum cousins are married, and got married in their 20s.

    When my cousin Yaffa came out as a lesbian, my mother was very upset. I asked her if she would have been upset if I had been a lesbian and never gotten married, and she would have been. My mother didn't want me to get married at 22, as she did, but she did want me to get married. So did my grandmother, and the rest of my family. They've never put pressure on me to get married, but they definitely want me to.

    As for me, I've wanted to get married since I was very young. Long before I became frum. I mistakenly thought being frum would actually help me get married. That was one of the selling points.

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  11. All mothers want their daughters to be settled and happy. (Your Mom's not Orthodox, right?). And my point still holds for the population of 'ordinary' nice women. Did you ever hear someone ask why rock stars marry young models? Answer: because they can. The problem is with Western society.

    Bottom line: you deserve marital bliss!

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  12. Orthodox men, by and large, are not rock stars. Not rich, not handsome, not famous. Not much of anything, many of them. Yet they still expect to marry skinny, beautiful, much-younger women.

    My mom's not Orthodox. And yes, I do deserve a little marital bliss. I just don't think it will happen.

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  13. s - guilt, like blame are wasted energy. I learned skills to help people turn this around. I understand if that point is ignored because it always is by those not ready to see and i have had many students. The big fear is of things staying the same, in this context single, a bigger fear is of change, here marriage, and this leads down the road of 'lets change the world through criticism' which never works and ends in the land of frustration, only through acceptance can you change anything and that begins at home with you.
    Witticism is not truth, a good debator does not make a good teacher, i found out how to systematically make this work, so can you.

    Ayelet - your comment that ended with i don't know what to think was balanced and heartfull. I like that when people go overboard in supporting you, it brings you back to center - their loving acceptance changes your attitude

    Now imagine a world when parents (you) give that to children (you)

    Aaron

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  14. I don't understand aaron's post, but I imagine he's a very effective spirit guide. And ayelet, although many ortho men are not rock stars, they still get the hotties. Why? As ftt said, because they can. The shidduch system is very clearly delineated into A lists and B lists and C lists. An A list woman must be hot, plus of unblemished history and pedigree, etc. An A list man does not need good looks, so the imbalance is built in.

    Either way, I say enjoy what you've got.

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