The way people talk about shidduchim, the "crisis" and the need to get married can sound like an obsession.
The incessant ranting about it like some holy relic, rite of passage, or penultimate goal feeds me this image of a marathon, where all the runners with their ages pinned to their shirts are dashing headlong down a path, some for miles and miles, exhausted, panting, gasping for air and a moment's respite from the race while hammering the track with their pounding feet, led by all manners of motivation from touch to companionship, social status to family, sexual contact to child-raising, religious obligation to communal acceptance, fear and existential angst in loneliness. Or just to stop everyone from nagging and asking every 3.7 seconds: "So, nuuuu, when are you getting married?"
And of course, every so often, the person I'm running next to suddenly disappears, having finished their race. At which point I'm left sprinting and perspiring and flabbergasted -while being happy for them of course, since their race is finished -wondering what on earth just happened and when I'll be the one to suddenly trip and stumble across my own finish line. Since I've got no idea where it is, I'm practically running blind, which can give this experience the treadmill-esque "going nowhere fast" sensation.
Of course, this particular marathon ends under the chuppah. But what then? From many perspectives, life opens up. Relationship, togetherness/unity, intimacy, family, acceptance, community, religious fulfillment... all reach a very different place at this "finish line."
It makes me wonder if we're picking the wrong race sometimes. If perhaps the finish line is really a beginning, why are we spending so much effort just to get there, instead of preparing for when we do? If people expend all their energy trying so hard just to get to the wedding, what do we have when we finally reach marriage? What is the purpose in running a marathon towards my wedding when that point is the beginning of marriage?
The voice echoing loudly in my head is adamant: "because you have to get there first!"
Allow me to conjecture for a moment, perhaps what is really necessary to reach the chuppah is a certain preparedness for marriage rather than racing towards a wedding.
Though I must admit that dating and relationships/marriage are completely different skill-sets. and my own focus from much younger has been the latter. More on that later.