By Elisha Ferber
We’ve heard it over and over again: there are too many girls in the parsha of shidduchim, and too few boys to match them up with. There is a disparity in the numbers of boys and girls.
Some have disputed or distorted the depth of the problem, attributing the crisis to insufficient community involvement in shadchanus, picky parents of boys, and “dollar-seeking.” While all of these may be true, we must realize that these are a results of the shortage problem, not the causes of it.
Consider the following. The same parents who are picky when their sons are in shidduchim, suddenly become very easygoing when their daughters are in shidduchim. While support makes all the difference for their son, money, to a certain extent, is of no importance for their daughter.
While it is difficult to come up with hard numbers to support any percentages, claims, or representations being made, by simply analyzing the situation, certain facts become glaringly obvious.
If a boy in the parsha is going out on a steady basis and a girl in a similar situation does not go on a date for months on end, then there are obviously a lot more girls available than boys.
If shadchanim can get a “yes” from girls within hours of the shidduch being redd, while they have to wait weeks before getting an answer from a boy, then we all have to admit that there is a problem.
The recent surge of interest by the klal in alleviating this disastrous situation is heartening. But the sad truth is that as long as we don’t seriously address the vast “supply” problem, all that will result is a lot of wasted time, energy and sincere effort.
No matter how many community shidduch groups we organize and convene, and no matter how many housewives turn into full-time shadchanim, not much would change.
If there are, say, 70 boys for every 100 girls, then only 70 of those girls will find a shidduch. While you may be successful in getting “your” shidduch to work, simple mathematics tells us that it will be at the expense of another girl’s engagement. While you may dismiss this as callous, this is painfully true.
What we first learned as 5-year olds playing the game of musical chairs is just as true today. If there aren’t enough chairs, then no matter how many times you play the game, and no matter how you continue to shuffle the chairs, at the end of the day, the same number of people will remain unseated. The only thing that may change is who was lucky enough to get a seat. The analogy to shidduchim is obvious.
What we have accomplished recently with these discussions is nothing more than the equivalent of turning up the music, picking up the pace, and making the eventually unsuccessful game of musical chairs a little more frantic.
The most encouraging solution suggested so far has been for boys to start dating at a younger age and with girls closer to their age.
This is an encouraging idea, but also not the answer. This solution relies on the unlikely premise that difficult decisions will be made by those most unaffected by the problem: the boys and their parents. This is painful to say, but it is probably true.
The same mother who is having problems marrying off her own daughter sees no reason to “burden her son with marital responsibilities at such an early age.” The boy who is learning seriously in yeshiva at age 21 sees no reason why not to continue learning undisturbed until 23. “What’s the rush?” is the common refrain.
Even if boys would begin dating at age 21 or even 20, this will still leave a 2-year disparity between the boys and the girls, who generally begin dating at 18.
While the above suggestion may slightly alleviate the problem, it is not a complete solution.
If anyone has the power to solve the problem, it is in the hands of those we would think most unlikely: the parents of the girls…
The solution? Put the girls in a “freezer” until the age of 20. Very simply, girls would not begin to go out on dates until they turn 20-years-old. Yes, this may sound laughable at first, but think about it:
– Taking the 18- and 19 year-old girls off the “available” lists would drastically narrow the market. The number of available girls would be cut by thousands.
– Parents who don’t think their 18-year old is really ready to get married wouldn’t have to bend unwillingly to the pressure from those pushing to “marry her off anyway.” She would be protected from that dreaded “ticking time clock.”
– Coupling this with the suggestion that boys begin to date younger, boys would automatically begin meeting girls closer to their age, eventually bringing the age-disparity-gap to a close.
– The stigma of the single 24-year old girl would be gone. After all, she was only allowed to begin dating at 20!
If this would become accepted – and perhaps mandatory – in the community, then shadchanim would no longer redd shidduchim to those girls younger than the age limit. All people would focus their efforts on these, more aptly-matched, girls.
Girls coming out of seminary would have a year or two “without pressure,” during which they could put away some money for after marriage.
We would no longer have the sad spectacle of girls watching their friends get engaged while they are left behind.
When the boys’ “freezer” was first introduced, people said it was “impossible,” “far out,” and “could not be implemented.” That idea is now widely accepted, and has been successful.
The girls’ freezer it is not an ideal or even mildly conventional solution. But we are faced with a severe, and certainly unconventional, crisis.
There are those who would rather take a wait-and-see attitude and simply encourage people to become shadchanim. Some people are uneasy about implementing any kind of new approach, especially one of this magnitude. This is a sad mistake. Sticking our heads in the sand in the hope that this problem goes away is drastically unfair to all the eligible girls out there.
It is widely known that the DeBeers Diamond Conglomerate constantly, actively, and tightly controls the world’s supply of precious diamonds, never letting the supply outnumber demand. They rightfully know that if too many diamonds were to be available to their seekers, people wouldn’t consider them to be worth such immense amounts and their value would diminish.
It is time we begin to show that we treat our daughters like the diamonds they are.