I am twenty-three years old and have been dating for four years now. Thank G-d, because my parents know a lot of people and I guess you could say we are all well connected, I’m been constantly busy. Busier than anyone should have to be.
At the beginning it was actually fun. I was excited about going out on a date. Meeting someone new. Wondering if the young man ringing my doorbell would turn out to be my “bashert.” It felt exciting and even romantic. Or maybe just romantic in my head, because in fact, it really wasn’t ever actually romantic.
At the beginning, I had a ball constantly shopping, buying outfits that normally my mother would never have splurged on. It was just as much fun going through my closet and figuring out what to wear, which shoes looked best, which bag to accent the outfit. Sometimes I’d even have my hair and make-up done professionally. Well, once in a while, when the “shidduch” was considered to be particularly fantastic (or so I was told.)
I look back on those innocent, naive days. When I felt like Cinderella going to the ball. The thrill of it all was tremendous. And I have to say that I was a very good dater! Always a perfect smile on my face. A real “chatty Cathy.” I could make conversation with a potato if I had to. And sometimes I felt like I was making conversation with a potato, judging from the lack of responsiveness I sometimes experienced. Boy, it soon turned into work for me. I would come home so drained, as if I had been on a three hour interview, where I had to be on my best behavior, not miss a beat – yet somehow I was doing all of the questioning.
I know I’m only twenty-three, but I feel exhausted, depleted, like I have nothing left inside of me to give. I just don’t want to do this anymore. Of course I still want to be married and have many children. I just don’t know anymore how it’s going to happen. I know that some of my friends got really lucky and just seemed to have clicked quickly with the right one. (O.K., yes, a few are already divorced, but most I think are doing alright.) But there are still a handful of us who feel like “leftovers.” Like me missed the boat and now we’re just treading water, hoping to be rescued someday, but not feeling all that positive anymore that it’s going to happen.
So I had the “conversation” with my parents the other day. Basically I said, “hold all calls.” I’m not going out anymore. I can’t. I need to stop. I can’t say for how long. Who knows when I’ll be ready to put myself through this, what has turned into for me, torture, anymore. Leave me alone!
I think in that moment, both my parents aged 10 years. They were horrified. Even speechless – which is rare for them. But now they’ve found their voices and are badgering me non-stop. Telling me that I don’t have the option or privilege of taking a break. Now more than ever I have to keep going. Increase the pace. Date everyone and anyone that comes along. Suddenly, it sounds like the house is on fire!
Navidaters – what should I do? This dating pressure has really taken a toll on me and I just can’t go on. No, I don’t want to be single, but I do want a miracle to happen and to just wake up one morning and find myself married to the most wonderful man. I guess I still believe in fairytales.
Four years of being on is a long time. I can understand why you are feeling kind of depleted and in need of a break. Everyone needs a break now and then from parts of their lives that can start feeling old, repetitive and tiring. In fact, the reason why we take a break, a.k.a. a vacation, is so that we can let down our guards, relax and come back to the task at hand feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, reenergized, “re” anything that gets us back on track in a healthier way.
I salute the idea of taking a break from dating. I think it will serve you well. But it has to be for a reasonable amount of time and then, since we are characters in fairytales, you do have to get back to the task of dating, but hopefully with a few changes in attitudes, so that you don’t find it quite as draining.
How does a month sound? One full month where you and your parents can agree that all talk of shidduchim is off the table. Not even a slight hint of some wonderful possibility that can’t be missed. An honest, shake hands, everyone on board agreement that its for the best that you have some time to thoroughly clear you head and have some fun.
Think about what a month “off” could look like. What do you passionately enjoy that you’ve been ignoring during the past few years? Have you not had a chance to go to museums, have dinner out with friends, shop for stuff that has nothing to do with dating? Do you miss bike riding in Central Park, ice skating in Rockefeller Center, taking Zumba classes? Your evenings and Sundays are all yours for a full month. Love it, live it, make the most of it. Oh, and probably the most important part of this vacation is about giving your brain a month off from worrying about getting married.
But then, when the month is over, you must commit yourself to getting back into dating mode. But with some slight changes. For instances, don’t view each date as if your life depended on it. It doesn’t. Try to look good, as I’m sure you always do, but don’t spend your day going through your closet, figuring out which outfit is the absolute best. I’m sure by now you have four or five “go-to” outfits that always work. No advance planning, just grab one.
Let’s talk about how hard you work at conversation. My best advice to you is, just be yourself. I can tell from your letter that you have a wonderful personality and are probably terrific company. If you find yourself acting like a talk show host, asking all of the questions and receiving zero reciprocity, stop working so hard. If that means you sit in silence for a while, learn to tolerate the silence. No one ever died from silence. And, interestingly enough, since nature hates a void, you may find that the young man you are out with begins to take the lead in conversation, when he realizes that you aren’t assuming full responsibility for all of the dialogue.
Maybe you need to be just a bit more selective. Just because you are twenty-three, doesn’t mean you have to go out with every single man that is presented to you. If you know for a fact that you could never be happy with someone who is four inches shorter than you, take a pass. You don’t want to be super-critical, nixing people for the slightest of differences, but you must know in your heart which traits, or lack thereof, are non-negotiable for you. Stick to your guns with those traits. You don’t want to waste your time or anyone else’s.
And finally, have fun. Laugh, giggle, see the humor in things and just be yourself. Your authentic self, which I’m sure is thoroughly attractive and charming!