Welcome to this week’s blog post where I will be speaking more frankly than I have in some previous entries. I really wish I didn’t have to write this piece, but it honestly feels important that I take a moment to address this.
What is “this” that I’m speaking of?
Shidduchim. Well, shidduchim and the disclosing of one’s personal information. I will also be talking about a concept (which I have no idea if it’s a real thing or something I made up) called situational autonomy. What that means, or what I think of it as, is a person having ownership and control over the situations they’ve experienced. They get to decide who knows what (about them) and how much of that they’re revealing or not. Their story and narrative is their own to decide what to do with.
So why this topic? Why now? How in the world does it have anything to do with shidduchim?
I’m glad you asked!
Over the lifespan of my blog I’ve come across so many incredible people who love and support what I do. They encourage me to keep writing, keeping being real, and are genuinely interested in hearing what I have to say. I’ve had many compliments over the years on how my blog has helped, inspired, and educated different people in many ways. I’m deeply humbled and honored by all of that, as well as encouraged to continue what I’m doing, because I’m spreading my light to whomever may need it. It’s not a privilege I take lightly. What you may not know though is that I spend hours upon hours and days upon days thinking of topics to write about, the impact it could have and the many ways it could potentially be received. I make sure that I can do the topic justice and put G-d into every word I write. What I share, I share because G-d put it in my mind and on my heart to share. Nothing is a coincidence, not even the words coming from a small blogger’s pen (keyboard).
It’s an unfortunate thing that people can take a look at my blog, an extension of me, and decide to make something negative out of it. I’ve been sitting on this situation and how to handle it for a little bit now because it took and hit me really hard, it essentially kicked me while I was already down. So I decided I was going to do what I do best and write about it– not only write about it, but post it for the world to read. There is something to be said for shedding light onto an issue.
I want to preface this by saying: all cultures, religions, communities, etc. come with their own views and their own pros and cons. This isn’t me speaking for all of Judaism, orthodoxy, or all of Chabad. It’s me speaking for me.
As many of y’all know, I am in the market of finding myself a husband. Not just a husband though; A man who can be my partner in the highs and lows of life, laugh and cry with me, make a home based on a strong foundation of G-d and love, and probably above all else someone who accepts me for who I am– quirks, health, and all! I’m putting my faith into the hands of Hashem and the shadchanim (matchmakers) He imparted this massive task onto. This is what’s known as the shidduch system.
I’ve been in the system since I was 19 years old. I started this blog at 20. This month I turn 27. Still unmarried and considered an “older single” within this world; Clearly there has got to be something wrong with me. Crazy, right? So color me surprised when I found out that there had been word of some people saying that my blog was part of the problem. I really wish I was kidding, but it’s true. Apparently I share “too much”, and that’s not perceived as a good thing. G-d forbid there should be actual information about me out there in the world. Information that shows that I’m human and have lived a far from perfect life, but that it’s perfectly imperfect, just like me. And I may be off base here, but I’m pretty sure that any couple who’s entering into something as serious as marriage should know these things about one another.
I’ve said it before and I’ll probably continue to say it until I’m blue in the face, or until it finally registers: The man I marry, my zivug/besheret/soulmate is going to need to know everything that I’ve ever shared here and he’s going to have to be able to accept that and hopefully even embrace it. That’s a full-stop, no questions asked, deal breaker (…maker?). And if this–my blog, that is documenting my life, is what deters him? Well honey, he just wasn’t meant for me anyways.
All that really means is that I’m one guy closer to my Mr.Right.
Or so they tell me.
That’s actually a small part of the allure of the shidduch system. Much like any other marriage minded/courtship based relationship, there’s a distinct end goal that both parties have when embarking on this journey. There’s not a lot of fluff initially; It starts with a matchmaker(s) receiving your resume, and that’s where sanity pretty much ends. Then there’s the waiting… lots and lots of waiting. You check in with the matchmaker(s) you’ve reached out to and just pray that they thought of guys, or even a guy, whose resume aligns with yours. Then you move on to the resumes being presented to each side, references being contacted, friends becoming FBI agents and finding out anything they can about the guy, and ultimately making sure that everything checks out and both parties are in agreement to wanting to proceed forward. Let me tell ya, there’s something nice and a bit weird about meeting someone for the first time and knowing who their sister-in-law’s second cousin is. Yes, we dig that deep (sometimes). Now if you’ve made it to this point, you start out with some basic conversation and truly getting to know the person, rather than knowing their resume. If that all still checks out, then y’all jump pretty quickly into the deep end. You cover things that could span from their favorite book all the way to where they see themself ideally settling down and how they want their children raised. This can often happen all before the third date! If you’re lucky and end up getting married it can be a wild experience because you know very deep details about your spouse, but may not know their favorite color or how spicy they like their salsa. Why? Because those are the things you can spend the rest of your life learning.[Disclaimer: Many groups and people approach dating/shidduchim in varying ways. This is not the be all end all.]
Now that I’ve given you a small glimpse into what shidduchim can look like, you can understand where/how my blog would be a factor and how it comes into play. From my perspective, I just made life easier for everyone involved. In the searching, or what I’d call the “FBI stage”, either he or the person doing some digging for him will have found my blog and most likely will go through it to see what I’m all about. There will be some who love the fact that they get a glimpse at who I truly am and finding out important information that could rightfully sway their decision of going forward with the match, and there will be others that decide that my lot is not something they can undertake, and I respect that. At least at this point in the process a “no” doesn’t hurt as bad because time and feelings have yet to be deeply invested. I’d rather have it like that than a complete investment of time and energy in a relationship that crumbles down after multiple (hours long) dates.
So… what about “situational autonomy”?
That’s where things get really interesting. Brace yourself.
The shidduch system, frum people, and really most people in general are not known for airing their dirty laundry. There’s plenty that’s kept on the down low, or, you know… buried way in the back with the other skeletons in their closet. I’ve broken the cardinal rule by laying out mine to be seen by the entire world. It’s pas nisht, or literally translated from yiddish, it “doesn’t fit”. We just don’t talk about those things, the topic isn’t befitting. It’s unfortunate to say, but it isn’t completely uncommon that a couple marries quickly, and then all the baggage and skeletons pour out of their closets and suddenly you’ve just become married to somebody completely foreign.
Again, this is not just the orthodox world.
So what about, instead of encouraging people to cover up the unsavory parts of their lives, they’re encouraged to embrace them!
Encouraged to grow.
Encouraged to accept help or comfort.
Encouraged to be exactly who they are.
It’s a novel concept, the idea of not hiding behind things. Now, I realize that being transparent can be uncomfortable and can make you feel vulnerable, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Not if we can change the stigma.
I’m not suggesting that everybody should go out and tell the entire world their story. You don’t need to go share every nitty gritty detail, hold no bars, and just bear the deepest things within your soul. G-d no. There is something to be said for choosing the right audience, and the right time and place though. What I’m actually suggesting is that maybe we can try and take away the obligation of being either completely open to the world or completely closed off. Maybe it should be encouraged that each and every person gets to share their story how they see fit. It’s not up to other people to dictate what you’re allowed to share or not share about yourself. It’s your story, your situation, and your choice.
It’s situational autonomy.
Only you know what feels best and right for you. It’s your life story to do what you please, nobody should be allowed to dictate or silence you. It’s not okay that there are people out there who think it’s within their right let somebody know that they’re too much. That they need to minimize and shift who they are to make others more comfortable, so they can fit into this made up box that very few could even comfortably settle into.
I’ve never fit into boxes.
Anybody, at any point of time in my life will agree, silence and I do not fit in the same sentence.
And ultimately to the reason why I wrote this– I wrote it for myself, but also for those who may not have the ability to say it themselves; I will not minimize myself or my story to make anybody else more comfortable and I do not believe that I should be apologetic over that. I have control over my voice, even if I don’t quite have control of my life, and sometimes than be perceived as “a lot”. One of the best lines I’ve ever heard, courtesy of TikTok, is, “If somebody tells you that you’re too much, tell them then to go find less.”
If there was any moment for a mic drop, it’s definitely here and now. There’s not much more I can say, but I hope and pray that this opened some eyes and some hearts.