As a 27 year old, single Orthodox woman living on the Upper West Side, dating is a huge part of my life. As a result, I post a lot of questions and polls on my Instagram stories about dating, mostly because I’ve noticed that my peers have interesting and insightful things to say about dating, and I’m trying to start conversations. Also, dating is lonely, despite the fact that we’re all out there going through similar experiences, and there is something extremely validating in finding other people who can relate to your experiences.
Case in point: the “Shidduch crisis.” Shidduch means matchmaking, and is shorthand in the Orthodox community for dating. The community is also convinced that it’s in a dating crisis that hurts women. When people talk about the Shidduch crisis, they are talking about a lack of men, and an abundance of women.
I’m not fully convinced there’s actually a crisis. But I am convinced that the endless talk about the crisis hurts women — a lot. It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, too. If you’re convinced there are too many women, you’ll be pressured to settle. Even worse, when we view unmarried 29 year olds as problems, we’re feeding into an insecurity that they were groomed to believe in since the day they started dating: There must be something wrong with me.
Opinion | Five Things Orthodox Singles Can Do To Combat The ‘Shidduch Crisis’
We put such a strong emphasis on dating in our community. And I get it. It’s important. But our community has to do better — and it starts with us singles. So how do we reframe our thinking? Here are five tips for singles to overcome negative “Shidduch crisis” thinking:
Don’t let people make you their crisis
Don’t let people make you their crisis — especially people who aren’t in the dating scene. It’s nice that people are trying to help. It’s amazing that everyone wants to set you up. But if you view yourself as a crisis, you become helpless.
And you’re not helpless. You’re doing just fine! Just because someone told you should’ve been married by now doesn’t mean you’re in crisis mode. It just means we live in a world that needs to do a lot of reevaluating.
Not everyone gets married at 21. Not everyone gets married at 25. Not everyone gets married at 30. These are simple facts. This is normal. Just because you’re 28 and not married, doesn’t mean you’re a failure! If anything, you’re probably figuring yourself out. And whether or not you realize it, that’s actually probably a good thing.
Age is just a number
Everyone loves to talk about age when it comes to the “Shidduch crisis.” That there are more women than men, and that men can always date younger. But so can women. By focusing so much on an age gap, you’re missing a crucial point — the age argument is totally irrelevant!
Be picky, but be open minded
Are you still single because you’re picky? Maybe. But I think it’s a gross generalization to say that all men and women above a certain age are still single because they’re picky. Being selective about a life partner isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually probably a good idea. You’re picking a spouse, not a pair of shoes. It’s good to take this seriously. But being open minded about who you’ll give a chance to — that’s different.
Download apps. Go to events. Think about dating someone who was previously married. Think about dating someone who grew up differently than you did. Sometimes it pays to be open minded.
Take back your agency
Ever feel like you have very little agency in your dating life? Yeah, you’re not alone. If you date in the Modern Orthodox world, where set ups are the norm, many of you probably feel you have little control over your dating life.
Someone calls you with a name, you say yes or no, and then, even if you’re not interested, most of the time they try to convince you to go on the date anyway. Guess what? You don’t have to say yes! You don’t have to explain yourself!
You can trust your gut, and make your own choices! You’re an adult! If people are trusting you to be mature enough to get married, they should trust that you’re mature enough to decide who you want to marry. You are in control! And this ties into point number 5.
Reassess your fear of rejection and make moves
Why are we so afraid to ask people out? Why are we so afraid of rejection? Sure rejection sucks. It stings. So many of my followers and friends fear asking someone out, because the rejection would be too embarrassing. But it’s crazy that we are so afraid to ask someone out, that we’d rather let an opportunity slide by than risk a small slap of rejection.
Some people rely on a matchmaker to do their confrontations for them, because they don’t have the guts to pick up a phone and say, “Hey, you’re great, but I don’t see this going anywhere.” Some of us are afraid to approach someone at a party and ask them out directly, at the risk of being embarrassed that he/she will say no.
But honestly, how can you be in a healthy marriage if you can’t communicate to another person how you are feeling? If you’re not confident enough to ask someone out, how can you be secure enough to be in a relationship?
So if you’re interested in someone, ask him or her out! Of course it’s easier said than done. But in my experience, I’ve found that people actually appreciate when you take initiative. They’re not embarrassed for you. If anything it’s cool that you had enough confidence to go after what you want.
Michal Greenspan is the creator of Skirts and Kicks, a blog and Instagram community that explores the highs and lows of dating in the Modern Orthodox Jewish community. You can follow @skirtsandkicks to join the conversation.