Last week on my Instastories I asked about the different topics people would be interested in hearing. One of the topics brought up was that of being single in the frum (Orthodox) world. Shout out to my best friend who sent that in, many people agreed to wanting to read about that. You have to give the readers what they want so, here we are: Frum. Single. Surviving.
I don’t think it comes as a surprise to many when I say that within orthodox Judaism, marriage is a big deal, and even that may be an understatement. It’s approached in a much different way than it is in the secular world where you can date for years, live together, and know the ins and outs of someone before committing to a lifetime with them. In the secular world, not getting married isn’t looked upon as a terrible thing, and casually dating well into your 30’s isn’t an oddity. Yes, everybody is different, as is every culture and religion, but the degree of which marriage and family are held to in the orthodox world is on a whole different level than what I’d grown up with.
I will be turning 24 next month, and I am petrified. Why? Because I’m not married (among like 99 other problems). I know what a lot of you are thinking, “Oh but you’re still so young. There’s time!” Or something in that realm, right? On a realistic level I know that, but I can’t help but feel this pit in my stomach that is constantly reminding me of my loneliness and the fact that I could end up an old maid. It’s like standing at a window on the outside, wanting to be on the inside where all the fun and action is. Praying and waiting to go in, day after day.
Prior to getting married, you’re a girl. Your age doesn’t matter, you’re still a girl. Marriage is the secret code to get you from the outside to the inside of the elite club of womanhood. It’s a badge of honor to walk around as a missus, someone chose you and now the world knows that.
To be fair, the world IS changing. I look at some of the most incredible orthodox women that I know who haven’t waited to get married to start their lives. They’re not damsels in distress waiting for prince charming—they’re intelligent and proactive, they’re not wasting time. They know that you can become whatever you want to be and become a wife and mother all at the same time. There is nothing that contradicts that. It makes me proud to see them take charge, it makes me feel less intimidated by community standards, and gives me a sense of hope that we can go from being single girls to merely just women. Women who have value because they bring so much to the world, and they don’t need to hide and wait for a man to be at their side so they can shine.
I, of course, had to add an entire other layer to being single and frum… I live out of town. Basically, I don’t live in New York or another large community, and that just makes everything about twenty times harder. Not only am I single, I’m single and lacking a social network. Well, that’s not completely true, I do have a few amazing people out here, and I have my family. While it’s not always the easiest, it’s just the reality of where I’m at. Living in a small (and I mean really small) Lubavitch community equals to an almost nonexistent dating pool. It’s a tough reality to come to grips with, and it takes patience and faith to know that I’m where I need to be for my health and wellbeing, and that Hashem puts us where we need to be for a reason.
As I’m writing this I feel like I sound like a beacon of faith and positivity and I’d like to clear that up: I am not. I may actually be one of the most pessimistic people you’ll ever meet.
I sit here and watch the clock as my time inevitably ticks down and wonder if I will ever be allowed into the illustrious world of the elite and married. Or, will leave this world without having ever seen the inside? Quite honestly…Hashem and I may need to see our own couple’s counselor because of how much I mentally argue with Him. It’s normal, because I know that all; the good, bad, and ugly, comes from Him.
When people ask what G-d has been doing since the time of the splitting of the Red Sea, it’s said that he’s making matches. That the bringing together of two people, two souls, takes the same power and effort as the splitting of the Red Sea did. Thinking about that grounds me, and reminds me that what may feel impossible to me, isn’t impossible to G-d.
I’m not writing this piece for me; I know what my reality may entail. I’m writing this for the 21-year-old who’s exiting seminary and wondering, what next? I’m writing this to tell her that just because her classmates are starting to get married and she’s going on dates that seem endless, that she’s doing amazing. She is worthy. I’m writing to tell the 28-year-old who has seen her younger siblings get married before her, that she doesn’t need to be married to go off and live her best life. She is worthy. I’m writing this to anyone who needs to hear it: We are surviving, and we are worthy.
The moment we take back our worth from the dating system, the sooner we will change the shidduch (dating) culture.
Closing this post with an abundance of love and faith.