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Jul 24, 2011

Interview with the Shadchan Brigade

The other night I went to a "Meet the Shadchan" event. Here's the story.

I heard about it only a few days in advance, and while I immediately set aside the time in my planner, it took until the morning of to hammer out all the details. I had some errands to run and therapy in the morning, schoolwork to do in the afternoon and less than an hour to get ready and travel. Busy day, of course. Clearly nobody's making this easy on me.

I picked out my clothing the night before, everything from pants to button-down shirt, belt and shoes. I was dressing to make a distinctly "me" impression, and -as usual -I was determined to make it the best of me.

I had received some guiding questions in advance, and spent hours crafting finely wrought, concise but genuine answers. Then I spent even more time formatting. I wanted them to take a glance and clearly see the basics -name, contact info, height, open-ended questions, references -and notice that I put thought and consideration into my answers. When they were checked, double checked, printed, checked and double checked again, they finally went into my leather folder, ready to take with me. Finally, I felt more confident, powerful and refined once armed with my Shidduch resume.

I'm not messing around, this is the most important position I'll ever have in life, and the potential for growth and promotion -"random guy" to "dating" to "significant other" to "chatan" to "husband" to "father" and beyond -is unfathomable.  "One step at a time," I tell myself. I'm not the only one being interviewed, or searching. For that matter, a good chunk of that is self-employment and motivation. I go nowhere without "me" and the hard work I put in.  

I'm about to head out, but turn around. I forgot my headphones. Must. Listen. To. Music. Aside from putting a lighter note in my heart, a bounce in my step and stimulating my mind... it also calms my nerves, when they begin to fray.

Flash forward. I arrive.

Okay, so things were a tad shaky to start. I had to print out my own resume instead of being able to just email it and have them print it out for the Shadchanim. That's okay, handing it to them separately will make me stick out. I wasn't sure if there would be space, but I'm here and that's all that matters, right? Right. I enter the fray.

As the night begins, I speak with a few Shdchanim that really spend time getting a feel for who I am, but as more people show up, an air of rushing and getting to the point quicker adds some time-pressure to the meetings. I hear many of the same questions -asking about my religiosity, hashgafah, my ideal woman, what I can't stand, my "look," personality traits, if I'll date Ashkenazi women or prefer only Sefardi, etc.

It's not so bad, these Shadchanim know how to schmooze. They seem very in tune and get to the point without being overly blunt. I get a lot of ego stroking... comments like "you have a nice smile," "you need a fantastic woman, I have to see if I have one for you" abound. If my face could turn red, it might have.

But, for the most part, I don't really answer these questions. I side-step them. I'm not an "in the box" or "cookie-cutter" type person and I don't have a specific "look." I find many different kinds of women attractive. Aside from the fact that no single combination of features is singularly attractive to me, attraction is broader than thinness, dress size, hip-waist-chest ratios and whatever else people are obsessed with nowadays.

I don't have a "personality type," like outgoing versus quiet. I care about character, like a woman being a giving person, particularly in her desire to fulfill the needs of her husband. That she communicates well, has a basic unbreakable respect that won't collapse under stress, pressure, anger, hurt or frustration -because without that respect communication breaks down and blame is laid out. I know I need a nurturing woman, someone who cares about (and is dedicated to) Halachah, someone who works hard on their own personal development and is motivated/committed to continue that growth process. And, apparently, through the way I talk most shadchanim assume I need someone intelligent. I like to think I need someone who can keep up with me.

Anything more is the icing and cherry on top. It helps that I'm not worried about lack of chemistry.

I also say that I think issues like who does the cooking or cleaning or fixes the car or are relatively irrelevant. With mature people who communicate, it can be worked out. For the most part, people aren't thrilled about doing chores, and they just need to get done. With people who have the giving mentality of "if I can do it, I will," and see it as showing love and care for the relationship/home/family, there's no reason to fight over it. Each person is 100% responsible for each thing that needs to be done, and should show appreciation when the other is filling that need. In fact, fighting over this kind of thing vaguely reminds me of two kids arguing about who has more orange juice in their glass.

More ego stroking ensues.

After interviewing with over twenty Shadchanim (and not even getting to introduce myself to half of the Shadchanim at the event), I'm exhausted. Also, despite my initial perspective and subsequent preparation, the process felt much more human than businesslike, which is something I particularly enjoy about YUConnects, and my experience with them has been much better as I have more and more human contact. By the time I leave, I've already got a few suggestions and immanent follow-ups. I've also collected many complements, and of course I show every bit of appreciation I can for the time and effort they clearly give to me and others. It really impresses me, and I'm always touched and amazed at the sheer time and effort that goes into the system.

Plus, I've now met many more Shadchanim, and that's part of the larger networking process of getting more people to think about me. Make an impression, and when someone comes along, perhaps with a bit of divine guidance, I'll pop into the matchmaker's mind. At least, that's how it is supposed to work, right?