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Thursday, July 11, 2013

What's in it for the "Girls?"


This video from the Chof K, supporter of NASI, is givings me a terrible, visceral gut reaction.  The video looks to promote boys marrying 'older' girls.  It is clear what is in it for the boys:

*Shadchan quote:  "She is a great girl, with a stable job, and a lot of life experience."
*Shadchan quote:  "She is much more grounded and prepared for marriage."
*Bochur/later in the video Married Man quote:   "Her maturity brought so much to our marriage" (emphasis mine)

Where couples meet as peers, perhaps age is 'just a number', although historical patterns show that woman have always gravitated to older men and there are studies that show marriage is more stable with some age gaps than others.  I do believe that where couples meet younger [in the course of living their lives], the age gap is generally much closer.  After all, how many seniors are interested in freshman?  

Unlike a meeting by chance on an internship or in a chem lab, in shidduchim, meeting is not by chance, but by design and normally a shidduch date is set up after interested parties have decided the other person has something to offer.  NASI is trying to re-design the desirable, and puts forward a 'utilitarian' case as to why young men should consider those who are older than them (6 entire months!!).   But, pray tell, do these young men offer to the "mature" young ladies with "stable jobs"?  

And, is this really the type of marketing needed to expand people's horizons regarding "acceptable" dating?  

Your (3-weeks-appropriate) thoughts?

35 comments:

Princess Lea said...

I believe it was you who said that if there hypothetically was a so-called "shidduch crisis" (a theory I find laughable) than it would have to arise from newly occurring factors. Since men have been marrying younger women since the dawn of time, it cannot be.

As an "older" single, here's one thing I have learned: Generalizations have no place in dating. Every individual is seeking something else. What I am looking for is not what my friend is looking for, that's for sure.

The NASI Project can huff and puff all they like. Their premise is that if a couple gets engaged and the chosson is older than the kallah, it would have been better if he married someone closer to his age. Who are they to say 1) what is bashert and 2) that age is the only factor to consider in the most important relationship in one's life?

Now, I must desist before I overexert myself.

SubWife said...

I don't know, if the goal is to persuade guys and their parents to go against a well established tradition, I would highlight the pluses and benefits. After all, some things we are looking for in a mate are utilitarian. What you are raising is, unfortunately, not unique to this video, but a common theme in shidduchim overall: girls (and their parents) are required to bring something to the table - stable job, support, maturity, etc. Guys, on the other hand, don't have generally to accomplish much to get a date. (Hopefully, common sense prevails and it doesn't mean that those guys who have nothing to offer get married easily, but it is definitely easier for them to date than for many accomplished girls.)

tesyaa said...

Plenty of seniors are interested in freshmen, but remember, that gap is only 3 years. And generally college students wait until they graduate or close to it to marry. So is a 25 year old marrying a 22 year old unusual? I don't think so.

Orthonomics said...

Princess Lea--I'm still not sold on the "age gap" being the cause of the "shidduch crisis." I do believe that we see more eligible ladies out there than the counterparts, but I don't believe that age differences are the primary factor involved.

SubWife--I think that marriage works out best when each part does bring something to the table. I don't believe that promoting this type of thinking is a net positive.

tesyaa said...

What a man brings to the table is his "learning", or in the absence of learning, simply being a man. This is a cultural phenomenon that doesn't seem to apply outside the Orthodox Judaism or other similarly conservative cultures.

tesyaa said...

BTW, the guy is not a "bochur" if he's already married. It's a term used to refer to single guys.

Orthonomics said...

True, he was playing both bochur at the beginning of the video where he counted out the 1 year + to the day!

Anonymous said...

A year or so shouldn't make a difference if everything else is right....

Anonymous said...

What is the Kof-K's shaychus to older single girls, anyway?

rosie said...

I didn't find anything wrong with the clip. Some men might find that his basherte is someone older than himself. It is not unusual or unheard of for a man to be younger than his wife. The bigger question is whether a woman wants a younger man, since he won't have the same degree of maturity as she does and probably won't have a career as she will. Do those women really want those young men?

Rachel Stern said...

I am an older single woman, widowed. I am 53 years old. The "shidduch crisis" is not relegated only to younger people. It exists throughout all the age ranges. I know. I was "single and looking" after my divorce - for four plus years, in 1995 - 1999. Then I met my late husband, we married and proceeded to have ten years of a wonderful marriage. He died in January 2009. I have been single since -- and not happily so. I wish to remarry. There are FAR MORE women than men who are single. And age IS an issue. I RARELY can find a man who is in his 50's who is interested in dating me. They usually want to date women in their 30's. I find that if I want to date, I need to expand my age range and date men in their 60's. This would be fine for me, and sometimes it is. You see, I am a VERY active woman - hiking, swimming, dancing, bowling, sightseeing, traveling, exercising and more. Most men in their 60's are NOT doing all that. And I have encountered men in their 60's who only want to date women in their 40's. I have encountered several shadchaniyot who have refused to help me, telling me, "there are no men for women in your age group". Yes, there IS a shidduch crisis, and AGE is a factor. But this video is addressing a group of YOUNG people, not the people who NEED to be addressed. And that would be men in their 40's, 50's, and 60's or older who have unrealistic demands of wanting to date only women who are much younger than themselves. Women like me are tossed aside, we are not important, and shadchaniyot refuse to help us.

tesyaa said...

Rachel and Orthonomics, is it possible that there are more religious women than men, i.e. that there are more men who are Off the Derech than women (at all ages)? If so, does anyone know why? Is it possible (generalizing massively) that women are more interested in spiritual pursuits than men? Is it possible, especially at younger ages, that girls are just more likely to conform and be "good" rather than to rebel?

I don't think we can make a blanket statement that oppressive religious rules would send more boys off the derech than girls. Boys have to deal with 14 hour days of gemara, but girls have to deal with strict tznius rules. So why are more men OTD than women, if that's indeed the case?

In the past we've discussed the possibility that more men than women are on the autism spectrum or have other neurological disorders, leaving fewer "normal" men than women. But despite the increase in autism diagoses, this is still a very small percentage of the population - not enough to cause a "crisis".

Princess Lea said...

Orthonomics: That's what I said. If you could be so kind and re-read my comment? I was debunking age as a supposed cause.

Miami said...

Tesyaa,

"What a man brings to the table is his "learning", or in the absence of learning, simply being a man. This is a cultural phenomenon that doesn't seem to apply outside the Orthodox Judaism or other similarly conservative cultures."

I hate to break it to you, the lack of marriageable men is a lament in LOTS of segments in America.

All my wife's secular friends lament their inability to find a quality guy, Jewish or otherwise. In Jewish circles, plenty of shortages, or have you never noticed the "shiksapeal" jokes? The comment that attractive gentile women "stole" all the Jewish men and Jewish women can't find spouses.

Business Insider:
A Lack Of Marriageable Men Is Affecting Women's Career Choices

New York Times:
A Shortage of Eligible Black Men

Ricochet:
For Todays Women Few Marriageable Men

This is NOT unique to Orthodoxy. When women hit the 50% point in colleges, we hit a tipping point. Changes in the educational system and our culture have resulted in men not doing as well in school. As a result, educated women are having a hard time finding suitable spouses.

This is particularly true in communities that encourage staying within their community AND have an external factor preventing men from getting educations/careers...

In the black community, it's mass incarcerations and criminal records (normally from drugs)... in the Frum community it's the Yeshiva/Kollel cycle. However, the net-impact is the same, and endless shortage of marriageable men within their community...

Oh, and black women can complain about white women "stealing" black men as well as Jewesses can complain about "shiksas stealing" Jewish men. :)

Men tend to be more extreme, always. More likely to die young, more likely to be criminals, more likely to have learning disabilities, more likely to be geniuses.

In the religious spectrum, of course men are more likely to go off the derech, they're also more likely to flip out. Same reason that they are more likely to engage in crime, do drugs, or otherwise make bad decisions. Young men are more likely to go to extremes making poor decisions, whether a function of testosterone or culture doesn't really matter...

So any community encouraging in-marriage and prohibiting polygamy is going to result in spinsters...

Hey, guess what, The UAE is suffering from a Spinster crisis: Why 30-year-old UAE women still single?....

It's NOT unique to us...

A solution is not to just tweak the ages based on bad math about Frum community growth rate (though that might actually make a few tweaks by a point or two), but rather focus on making more of our men good candidates for marriage so there isn't a shortage causing women to debase themselves this way.

tesyaa said...

Miami Al, going off the derech is not the same as engaging in crime or doing drugs, and is not necessarily even a bad decision for many people.

Thanks for the data from other (non-fundamentalist) communities.

There are plenty of Jewish men who could be decent husbands, but are not acceptable to frum young women. Young frum women do have some unreasonable expectations about young men. Of course, there are some men who are bad marriage candidates, but not as many as the frum world would have you believe.

tesyaa said...

In other words, rather than trying to "fix" young men, the frum world should try to see them as not broken in the first place. Of course, that means adjusting expectations.

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying a "frum" young woman should accept a nonreligious mate. But at all points on the spectrum, the categories could be widened just a little to result in overall higher marriage rates.

tesyaa said...

if there hypothetically was a so-called "shidduch crisis" ... than it would have to arise from newly occurring factors.

Could the newly occurring factor be a decrease in maternal mortality? My father's great grandfather had 3 wives (not at the same time), 2 of them sisters who apparently both died young.

tesyaa said...

Sorry, 11:57 was me, tesyaa.

JS said...

I agree with Al that this is not a problem unique to Jews, Orthodox Jews, or yeshivish Jews. The difference perhaps is that this is a community in which everything is tightly regulated and controlled by rabbis, so people figure this is a problem that can be fixed by stricter control from rabbis. It's doubtful this will work and it speaks volumes that people think the solution is handing over even more control of the most basic aspects of their lives to rabbis.

Unless we're prepared to force people to marry, this will be a problem.

tesyaa said...

JS: also in a religious community, people really believe that everyone has a "bashert" determined by God; so if they're not finding their bashert, there is some factor standing in the way (i.e. a boy's unwillingness to consider an older girl). Remember, the religion teaches both that God controls everything and that people have free will. So God created 25-year-old Aidel's bashert, but 24-year-old Chaim needs to exercise his free will to date an older girl.

Note that in the video, the age differences were never more than a little over a year. I have a close relative who has been happily married for 17 years to a woman who is about 5 years older than him. Of course, they're not observant...

Miami said...

True, serial monogamy was much more common. The reduction in childbirth mortality combined with family planning as drastically reduced the number of men that would become widowers and remarry, that could up the rate.

"Miami Al, going off the derech is not the same as engaging in crime or doing drugs, and is not necessarily even a bad decision for many people. "

In an absolute sense, it's not, in a relative sense, it is. In all cases it is a behavior that is viewed by the culture in which they are raised as a dangerous one that puts them in jeopardy.

And more that that, a young Frum guy going OTD makes himself unmarriable to a Frum woman... In that regard, he takes himself out of the marriage market equally whether he goes OTD or spends 5 years in prison for possession of marijuana...

tesyaa said...

a young Frum guy going OTD makes himself unmarriable to a Frum woman

My point is that there are degrees of OTD, and what one group considers OTD, another group might consider very religious. Demanding a spouse of the identical current religiosity who also originates from the same group might be adding too many constraints.

aspiring father said...

I think one substantial cause of the high number of single women is that American women across all demographics are increasingly being raised to believe that they should never accept an imperfect man. In the more Modern Orthodox and secular Jewish worlds, this often leaves men with what would otherwise be normal American income levels without a realistic chance for marriage because they can't afford to live a jet-setting lifestyle. In the more Yeshivish/Hareidi worlds, this might entail rejection of men whose families cannot support a young couple whose husband is studying all day. And so on.

What these scenarios all have in common is that these women are not being raised to believe "hey, there isn't exactly an overabundance of wonderful men who will love you unrelentingly, who display all indications of terrific fatherhood potential, who care tremendously about their community, and who value Jewish observance to more or less the same extent that you do." Instead, they are being raised to believe that perfection is out there and it's just a matter of exercising enough obstinance in order to find him.

I went through this myself. Dated a very nice young woman who was of roughly the same stripe of Modern Orthodoxy that I am. Made it clear that I was glad to live one town away from a major Jewish epicenter, gave her every indication (through interactions with my family) that I have a very solid foundation for the skills of a father, and she even fell in love with my town. While I wasn't going to ever be willing to send kids to day school, she herself had never met a day school that she liked other than the one she attended for elementary school--so it wasn't as much of an issue as it might have been. But eventually she decided, after 5 years of being unable to make up her mind, that she wanted to live in the city that she came from (I was willing to move to the state that she came from, but not the particular big city).

This woman's own mother and father came and observed the lifestyle that I was offering her. They both repeatedly looked her right in the eye and said "I don't know what you're waiting for. I don't know what you think you're going to find that Aspiring Father doesn't have. I can understand why someone who comes from a town like this wouldn't want to move to [their big city]. Someone could be very happy in a town like this for a VERY long time. And he's not going to have any trouble finding someone else after you're gone."

So what I think most of the problem really boils down to is that women who want perfection--whatever form that perfection may take--are creating their own problems by refusing to recognize they not only are there no perfect men, but those women themselves ain't so perfect either. Life isn't about achieving perfection. There are a disappointing number of women in their thirties who haven't learned that lesson yet.

Miami said...

There was a funny Internet Meme a year back... two women were dressed similarly and playing the guitar, the theme was, same woman at 29 and 31 singing to each other.

The gist was that the woman at 29 was singing about how wonderful life was, how the world was open to them, their career was on track, dating was fun and wonderful, etc., etc.

The woman at 31 just had an angry response as the chorus "there's nobody left..."

It was pretty funny, but a consequence of that "you can have everything" that our American 20 somethings are finding. Women are encouraged to start careers, lives, etc., all BEFORE "settling down..." basically the same advice given to men in prior generations. However, women face a certain biological clock (and as the Frum community has seen, and sociological one, Hareidi men are hardly worried about infertile 22 year olds).

The window when women go from "establishing themselves" to "over the hill" is sort and fast... a cruelty of the universe I suppose.

Shabbat Shalom...

tesyaa said...

Miami Al, readers of this blog can't win. You bring up the certainty of the biological clock and the pitfalls of trying to "have it all". Yet on other threads commenters have bemoaned early marriage and kids as a sure way to end up financially struggling. Surely there's a happy medium, but to the casual reader, it may seem that there's no "solution".

Miami said...

Tesyaa,

There probably isn't a solution. If you want to be married, focus on being married. If only 90% of Frum Women are going to get married, and your daughter wants to get married, try to be in that 90%.

The idea that there is some magic want to "solve" the shidduch crisis is magical thinking, not grounded in reality.

Sure there are things we can do to try to tip the scales. Encouraging a broader definition of acceptable mates would work help. Attempting to push back on the generally common men marrying slightly younger women might help, at least at the margins.

More Internet dating could help. Removing the stigma (only permitting Internet dating for those that can't find a date another way is a good way to stigmatize and make it the loser pool), and generally accepting modern tools would help.

Lots of things could help a little, but nothing will "solve" this imaginary crisis.

If you are in the 90% of Frum women that is married off, there is no crisis. If you are in the other 10%, it's a crisis. Let those 10% form their own communities and it becomes a self reinforced crisis.

There are lots of contributing factors to the growth in American spinsters. You can try to improve them, but all these tinkerings at the margins can maligned as "they won't solve it," nothing will. We have more Frum women looking for husbands than we have Frum men looking for wives, so the "market price" for Frum men will go up.

This can be whatever premium those men want... more attractive wives, in-law financial support, whatever... and no amount of sympathy for mothers of daughters will cause anyone to settle for less than what they perceive their market value...

I mean, the historic way that women got themselves married when the "normal" channel wasn't working was to seduce a guy, get pregnant, and force him to "do the right thing." Do we have any takers for encouraging fornication and shotgun weddings for unmarried Frum women? Of course not, so bring on the "videos" encouraging men of 20 to consider worldly wives of 22... sure beats moaning on websites... not by much, but it does "beat" it.

tesyaa said...

What you say makes perfect sense, but girls who are taught their whole life that their bashert was determined for them when they were a 40-day-old fetus, and who are doing their "hishtadlus", are not going to accept that they might end up in the 10% group. It would be nice if our educational system were a little more realistic.

Miami said...

Tesyaa,

That's okay. For 90% of the women, their bashert was determined when they were 40-days-old.

For the other 10%:

Some will blame themselves and their lack of faith (this will lead to calls for more Seminary and more money on education to help our faithless women)

Some will give up, leave the community, and build themselves another life (this will of course leave to the OTD crisis)

Some will anonymously vent on the Internet

The Shidduch crisis is only really number 3... Which is considerably less than 10%.

Anonymous said...

Stigmas, stigmas, stigmas..".it should be like this and it should be like that. The guy should be older. The guy and girl should be frum from birth and should have attended the right schools. They should meet through a shadchan, never the internet. No one should have divorced parents. And only marry rich..."
I met my husband in college ( yes, a CUNY school- Coed!) and luckily I did not realize when we first met that I was 2 1/2 years older than him. He was not FFB ( frum from birth). I ended up supporting him through medical school as I worked. We have been married 30+ years. When our kids( all girls) started dating, we were very open minded and remain so to this day. Our only requirement was that my girls all marry NICE guys. If they wanted to sign up on a dating website, that was fine. If they dated a guy from a divorced family, we never stigmatized the guy- divorce happens.And if they chose to date a guy who was younger, we could only laugh and say, yes, our kids grew up thinking that this combination is normal! Two of my daughters are already happily married, the last is still young...
Sorry, I do not get it why any of these things should be made into a stigma. They are only a stigma if we make it a stigma! Let's let people chose a mate using more important criteria- like if they will be happy with that person! All the other stuff is really trivial!

Anonymous said...

I did not find my soul mate---and I am off the derech,too.
Father Patrick O'connell

Mr. Cohen said...

Most single girls in the Lithuanian-style Yeshivah World would never consider marrying: Baalei Teshuvah, Sephardim, sincere Halachic Gairim or men who have full-time jobs instead of full-time Torah study.

These types of men are rarely contacted by shadchanim, and when these men do contact shadchanim, they are usually matched with the worst girls.

chenyok said...

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Anonymous said...

Hey chenyok,

you suck!

Anonymous said...

Wow. A lot of comments out there.

I call bullshit on the argument that women who are single in their 30s are single because they didn't start looking young enough. I'm 34 and have been looking since I started caring about boys. So, let's say for 20 years. More realistically, since I was 22 or so.

I also call bullshit on the argument that women have to be less picky to find men. I've tried being less picky and ended up dating far too many men for far too long who had Asperger's and were unable to have a conversation (not a debate) or go out to dinner with my friends. Or who were racist and sexist. Or who didn't believe in evolution
I'm not looking for a rich man. Just someone who can support himself by working full-time and help support a family. I fully expect that both I and my future husband will need to work full time.

I have been Internet dating for the past 12-14 years. Never worked with a shadchan (aside from on SawYouAtSinai) since I've never found one who would help a Modern Orthodox, pants-wearing, Talmud-studying woman. I observe Shabbat and kashrut and am very involved in my shul, but I'm no aidel maidel.

I think that there are a lot more women who are in the middle of the road, Modern Orthodox or traditional, and those women have trouble finding men. I don't want to date someone who didn't go to college or has never had a full time job (by his 30s), and I've been out with both. I don't want to date someone who eats meat at non-kosher restaurants, nor do I personally want to eat dairy at one (but I would date someone who did). It's really hard. Guys tell me they want someone who only wears skirts, will cover her hair fully, and will sit back and let them learn Torah with the children while she cooks and cleans. This is not a joke. I encounter this. Or they want someone who will sleep with them before marriage. Which I don't want to do.

I don't know how to make men be less extreme. I do suspect that getting boys with ASD better social skills while they are young will help with the Asperger's issue, which has been significant in my dating life. If you're a smart, intellectual Jewish woman, looking for a smart Jewish man, it is very hard to find one who is over 30 who doesn't have Asperger's or ADHD so severe that they preclude normal socializing. I don't think it's too much to ask for a man who can hold a conversation with you or spend a few hours at dinner with your friends without scowling.