Two important articles about the Shidduch Crisis have appeared in the last few days. The first, written by Jon Birger, the author of an important new book called Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game, explores the similarities between Mormons and Orthodox Jews and the crises both groups seem to have when it comes to dating and marriage. What Two Religions Tell Us about the Modern Dating Crisis explores religious dropout rates, demographic issues, and financial concerns that affect dating in these two cultures. Birger did his homework (full disclosure, I was interviewed by him and quoted in the article). He looks at the statistical issues in particular, the ever-increasing number of women to men, how money is used to bargain for a better mate and why the process causes people to leave religion.
If there are doubters, and indeed if you check certain blogs there are a few, Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, a religious women who was until relatively recently one of the single women who felt vulnerable and desperate because of the Shidduch process, shows that their voices can be set aside. The Dating Shame: Orthodox Obsession With Externals Has Reached Epidemic Proportions indicates just how much the Shidduch system as it exists now has objectified young single women. None of this is new. I wrote about it in my book The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures. It seems though that it is getting worse!
Ms. Chizhik-Goldschmidt is now married; she made it to the other side. Having achieved the lofty status of marriage she is cast in the role of matchmaker. Single women primp for her, getting their hair and nails done, wear high heels and dresses that are often exorbitantly priced, even having plastic surgery just so that she, a married woman will find a proper young single man that she can introduce them to. She correctly points out that the article written by Jon Birger “did not exaggerate.”
Look at some of the specifics: Orthodontists love to work in Orthodox communities because girl’s teeth must be perfectly straight. Nail salons exist in every community but seem to be burgeoning in ours. It seems that it is close to impossible to get an appointment at one of these salons on days that there is a wedding in the community. More and more women are taking cosmetology courses in response to what is perceived as a growing need. Dermatologists and plastic surgeons are very busy with facial peels and nose jobs, which are de rigueur for single women. Have you ever noticed just how many single women have noses that look so similar? Women are objectified by a system that requires them to fit a specific dress size. As a result, eating disorders are higher in the Orthodox world than other groups.
The paradox of the system is that women, even young girls, are removed from photos in newspapers, magazines, and advertisements – a local Jewish newspaper refused to run an ad for children’s shoes because it contained pictures of three and four year old girls and boys in their new shoes – while single women are simultaneously required to project a physical image of a “10”, a super-model and a successful breadwinner. Too many women struggle with the inconsistencies, succumbing to conflicts that often result in a variety of anxiety and depressive reactions, anorexia, and leaving religion often only privately. There is no question that far too many singles are leading a dual lifestyle, presenting a façade of spirituality and religiosity while acting out, partying, hanging out in bars, and trying to find a lifestyle that accepts them for whom they are.
There is a trend developing. My colleagues who work in substance abuse facilities confirm this recent craze. I see it among young singles, women much more so than men. I am told that it is called the “ba dear” toast. Ba dear is a yiddishism for “it should happen for you.” Every time a single who partakes in the trend receives that blessing from a married person – it should happen for you to be engaged and get married – they take a shot of their favorite liquor. There is a lot of drinking going on, more so than ever before.
So that’s what we are coming to, objectifying women to the point of anorexia, surgery and hair and nails excesses, spending too much money on clothing, and still not being seen in a public venue by men, high rates of anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Now we can also anticipate an increase in alcohol abuse.