Dear Rosie & Sherry,
As an older single woman, I rarely receive suggestions for dates. It's difficult for me, but I have accepted the challenge to live the best life possible and surmount the tests that I was sent here to fulfill. I am well-regarded and most people would have no trouble admiring me for this determination.
Unfortunately, some of the suggestions I do receive are, to put it kindly, "not appropriate." That's why, when a man called me recently on the recommendation of someone we know in common, I figured that an available male at this age is cause for some suspicion. As it turned out, I was right beyond my wildest imagination. While pleasantly conversant, he was about a decade older than me, twice my weight and, however painful to say, he reeked like a homeless person on the subway. (This was not an issue of someone just overheated on a hot day. His car – best described as a pigsty - indicated his overall poor hygiene.)
Should I point this out to the person we know in common, if only to spare some other female from this experience in the future?
My real message is that if you want to set two people up, you may be doing more harm than good. Consider: If you would not want this person to date your own daughter, then please do not attempt to foist him off on me!
What’s your take on this whole situation?
We're sorry that you had such an unpleasant experience with this blind date. At the same time, we appreciate your sharing it with us and, in turn, with the Jewish community. You are absolutely right that some people are not currently marriageable, and a well-meaning friend or acquaintance who sets them up on a blind date often does more harm than good by demoralizing the unsuspecting date and by damaging their own credibility as a volunteer "matchmaker."
Someone with deplorable hygiene does have a serious underlying problem, and should not be set up on any dates. He has to address both his slovenliness and its cause before any woman would even consider him as a date, let alone a marriage partner. The acquaintance who suggested you to him has to be told this in a considerate but firm way.
On the other hand, it is helpful to try and understand the faulty reasoning that the person who suggested the match may have used. They know that the person they want to help has good qualities, and they hope that someone who isn't having such an easy time with dating will be more inclined to look beyond a problematic exterior and see the "diamond in the rough" they believe their friend to be.
He believed that the right woman could help pull this man together.
This is what happened when one of our neighbors once approached us to help him find a match for his friend, whom he described as a "really nice guy who's down on his luck." It turned out that the friend was a middle-aged man who hadn't worked (or looked for work) in more than a decade and supported his marginal lifestyle by begging whenever he needed funds. Our neighbor genuinely believed that a highly functioning woman could help motivate this man to pull himself together, and that a particular "older" single who was having trouble finding suitable dating partners would be willing to consider him as a match.
Our well-meaning neighbor was surprised when we refused to help him, and explained that we believed it was both unfair and unrealistic to expect someone else to marry his friend so they could "fix" him.
Many times we have heard a similar rationale expressed in trying to set up a poorly-functioning individual who lacks the ability to manage their mental illness. "They just need someone to help them get their head on straight," the misguided would-be matchmaker explained. In this eagerness to help a relative/friend/acquaintance find someone to marry, they completely overlooked the fact that marriage should be based on a mutually loving and giving relationship. It isn't a “charity project” in which one partner's pre-determined role is to nurse, support, counsel, or repair someone who is not capable of giving much in return.
We're not saying that people with mental illness should not get married. Many men and women with different types of mental illness have found ways to manage their conditions, live healthy and productive lives, and be good marriage partners.
But the key here is “management.” If someone is not emotionally stable, or not functioning well, or not productive, and if they don't have the capability of being a healthy and giving marriage partner, then don't set them up. If you want to help, then encourage them to get the professional assistance they need to become functional and marriageable. Just bear in mind that some people will not heed this advice, and others will unfortunately never become marriageable.
And we believe you are correct: A good litmus test is to ask yourself: Would I want my own child marrying this person?
Thank you for helping to raise this issue, and we wish you success in navigating the dating maze.
Rosie & Sherry