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Single Minded

Single Minded

Why aren't we all matchmakers?

by Andrea Simantov

Almost 20 years to the day that I stood beneath a flower-decorated chuppah on Eastern Long Island, I left my marriage and home with a toothbrush and a "Shabbos blouse" hastily stuffed into my oversized pocketbook. I wore a one-size-fits-all black skirt and pretty lavender sweater, covering an "I love Jerusalem" T-shirt. At the time I left, I didn't realize that it would be another 14 months before I could afford to replace the skirt or that I'd be spending most of the next few weeks sitting in an empty, cold-water flat wearing the absent-owner's terry-cloth bathrobe in order not to soil my one outfit. With no immediate source of income and the Passover holiday looming, I found work cleaning houses for the upcoming holiday in the city's Rehavia neighborhood: two homes for $100 apiece.

We were invited out for the first night to the home of my friend's parents. These people didn't know us but treated my brood and me with dignity and visible delight. The gracious, elderly hosts ignored my discomfort over my "turn of circumstances" and, instead, we were made to feel as though this was the only place in the world for a frightened, divorcing mother and her six confused children.

The following year found us happily (!) ensconced in my bachelorette pad and we, the warring parties, had a "holiday agreement" ironed out. Finding myself childfree for the holiday, I attended a fabulously A-List Seder, gourmet catered at a five-star hotel. I lucked upon this invite via loving New York friends. Again, I was treated with dignity but on a personal level, I felt uncomfortable. Newly single, it was hard not to feel peculiar in a couple's world. After all, for 20 years I had played hostess, basking in the admiration of friends and family.

The reason I didn't think of singles was because I didn't, in fact, see them. It was easier to save my compassion for the more visibly needy among us.

My third, fourth, and fifth "alone" Passovers have been spent with the Kaplans. Last year, trudging up the steep hill to their beautiful home, I suddenly began crying uncontrollably, hugging the gift bag of wine and macaroons to my chest. In addition to feeling sorry for myself, I was overtaken with an indescribable feeling of guilt. In all of my 20 years of marriage, I had never given an ounce of thought to single people. Never took a Donna Reed moment -- in-between poring over recipe books, selecting festive fabric napkins, and finding poignant, Torah-inspired works to better enhance our reading of the Haggadah -- to wonder where the single woman in the fourth row (right side) of the women's section is at the moment my youngest child recites the four questions. Where the quiet man, childless and widowed, renting my neighbor's basement apartment, is eating his Shabbos supper.

This sense of overwhelming shame was compounded by an even harsher truth: the reason I didn't think of them was because I didn't, in fact, see them. In my marital struggle for conformity, it was easier to put on blinders and save my compassion for the more visibly needy among us: the poor, the physically disabled, the displaced.

But now I could feel the isolation of another human being. Because on some days I was so lonely that I thought my heart would break upon seeing an elderly couple sitting together on a park bench or a young man waiting, with a baby in a stroller, beaming as his pregnant young wife exited the pharmacy.

When I was married, I'd occasionally come across a single man or woman who I knew was good for somebody. Somebody I'd already met. Somebody who was recently divorced. Available. Whatever. But I could never remember just who that somebody was, because I hadn't written it down. I'd say to the respective person, "Oh, when I remember, I have to make this shidduch!" And even though it mattered to me that I be thought a considerate person, it hadn't mattered enough for me to truly take in that the person to whom I was speaking was desperate for a date, a chance, the opportunity to become an "us."

Among the holiest of our people are those who try to make matches between men and women. And just as there are disreputable people in many fields, I'm fairly certain that the shidduch industry has its own roster of charlatans. All the same, I'm awed by the professionalism and compassion among the many I've met.

Professionals aside, it behooves me to ask, why aren't we all matchmakers? Why isn't each and every one of us keeping a little memo pad in our back pockets or pocketbooks in order to catalog a roster of the singles we meet? Why aren't we pulling out that same notebook/palm pilot/business card folio and comparing our lists with the other men/women at the gym/book club/nail salon?

I have begun to do just that: to want and pray for another that which I want and pray for myself. Without a trace of the old shyness, I now ask, aloud, "does anyone know of a man who might be suitable for this woman?" It is my fervent hope that at another table, elsewhere, someone is asking the same question on my behalf.

Walking up that hill last Pesach I made a promise, one that I'm determined to fulfill. Should I be blessed by God to merit another marriage, I will make it my business to remember this time, to truly hold onto this aching loneliness in order to include singles in my world. To never, again, grow smug in my own life-station.

After all, you cannot help those you cannot see . . . .

January 21, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 35

(34) Anonymous, February 12, 2012 4:55 PM

Missing the point

While I appreciate the author's emotional/personal revelation - I do believe this message is a bit off target. As a 'Single' BT, I am personally sick to death of being looked at as a project, a lost/invisible soul, or someone that's sad/pathetic simply because I'm single. When, in all honesty, I find that my life situation is a lot better then some of the married people I see around me. And while I would like/appreciate any sincere help in finding my husband, what I would like even more is if people could see me as a whole, happy, healthy, and valuable person as I am. Being viewed and treated as though I'm 'lacking' something does not help me in my process to meet someone and it destroys self-esteem on a daily basis. Having my deepest pain point constantly focused on by people who are NOT my close friends (or are just barely acquaintances) under the guise of 'helping' feels simply like a violation. What would be much more helpful is to look at me and treat me like I am a real, whole, happy, and healthy person. Get to know me for who I am. Invite me to a meal. Make plans with me, but NOT because you feel sorry for me, but MAYBE because you just might like spending time with me. Because believe it or not, nobody wants to feel like they're a charity case. So 'enough' talk about the 'shidduch crisis' and enough focusing on 'saving' our lost singles... why don't we simply try to see the value in each human being as they are. Because only Hashem knows what or why each one of us walks the path we do.

Shira, May 7, 2014 6:20 PM


You said it! You should write an article expounding even more on this. ;)

(33) Content2besingle, July 19, 2011 3:45 PM

Hashem dosen't bless everyone at the same time

Hey - I have come to realize that we should be happy with whatever Hashem gives us. I have been single and not married for a long time now, and yes I have had bouts of sadness, shame, loss of faith...but when I looked at the big picture of why I was single, it was because of my life and my circumstances that have kept me single. Without getting into the reasons, I just want to say to the writer - maybe some of us end up liking staying single - actually, it gets more comfortabe after awhile - we eventually fact, there was another writer on here who wrote and compared our plight to finding the one as waiting for our suitable baggage to arrive around that conveyor belt a the airport...yes, our baggage gets bigger, and more complicated, as we get older, and we are not able to accept others baggage as easily and foolishly when we are younger. Perhaps, it is just better for us to accept, that maybe our baggage is lost and gone, as it happened to me once at the airport...maybe we missed each other, maybe I lost my chances with someone...we miss boats, planes, buses...many people perish in floods, hurricanes, tsunamis makes you appreciate just being alive, let alone being single. Sometimes I see people with 9 or 10 kids, and I wonder and ask Hashem why I can't even find a wife...only Hashem knows, so don't feel obligated to resolve my problems- all I ask, is maybe include me in your prayers - maybe my prayers are blocked by something, name is David ben Rivkah

(32) Anonymous, April 15, 2011 12:03 PM

Just invite us singles, matchmaking aside.

Invite the people you see around you, forget the matchmaking for just this once. I may be very lonely sitting in my apartment for Shabbat or Chag. An invitation to a meal would be wonderful.

(31) Sharon, February 2, 2011 5:05 PM


I am recently divorced after a 20 year marriage - I can relate to what you have written - but on the other hand after all I went through before I finally got my get - I can only say that I am much happier now - alone but with my pride and I truly believe that if my match is around we will find each other. I wish you all the best in the future and bear in mind that where ever you are you never really know what is in store - בהצלחה

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