The Single Sock
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The Single Sock

The Single Sock

After a spin in life's dryer there's more to singles than their missing pair.

by Kreine Schneiderman

When folding my laundry, I am sometimes painfully aware of my single socks. You know, the ones that become mysteriously separated from their mate. Often I toss these stragglers back in my sock drawer, hoping their match will surface with the next wash. But each time I go to fetch a pair of socks, I can't help but notice how utterly lonely and purposeless they look amid a sea of perfectly paired argyles, peds and anklets.

Recently I've begun to wonder if that's how the married world views "older singles," the 30-and-over set who haven't yet found their soul mate. It would explain the seemingly endless forums and lectures dedicated to the "singles crisis," and why many well-meaning married individuals who meet me for the first time pepper me with questions about my love life to the exclusion of just about anything else.

On the one hand, I appreciate the attention and concern and I am flattered that they would find me match-worthy. On the other hand, I wonder how the same people who subscribe to the Jewish belief that every individual is an entire world, can treat me so one-dimensionally. I suppose they assume that the singles' world is flat.

A few weeks ago, I participated in a game at a Jewish single's mixer called "Connect 4." Approximately 320 people were divided into two age groups -- 24 to 34, and 35 and up. Both genders were instructed to pair up with a partner of the same sex. The male pairs then formed a circle around the female pairs so that each man was facing a woman. Essentially the game was double-date Speeddating: two women conversed with two men at the same time before rotating on to the next group.

While practical in theory, I could barely make out what my three-minute dates were saying above the noisy chatter of 319 other speed-daters, nor could anyone hear the facilitators' muted shrieks to switch. Many men simply refused to rotate if they were engaged in conversation with a potential prospect. In the end I felt as if I had been wrung through a dryer. Like my single socks, I emerged staticky, somewhat faded, and without my match.

The main difference between people and socks is that socks can't change.

Of course the main difference between people and socks is that socks can't change -- they can't grow stripes or polka dots or aspire to be more than pieces of cloth and thread. People on the other hand, can stretch themselves, stitch up their holes, mend each other's holes, and explore the very fabric of their existence. If they work real hard, they can even change their spots.

For late bloomers like myself, singlehood can be a valuable and necessary growth opportunity, a time to discover one's true self and heal old emotional wounds. Murray Bowen, a famous family therapist and theorist, postulated that people tend to choose mates with equivalent levels of emotional maturity. Put simply: happy people marry other happy people, unhappy people marry other unhappy people. If you follow the logic it's easy to see how being single could be viewed as a time of self improvement leading to a healthy, mature relationship. Just think of all the divorces that may have been prevented had more people taken the time to work on themselves before rushing into marriage!

As a 38-year-old woman who has never been married, I try to use my single time wisely, embracing opportunities to fine-tune existing skills, cultivate new interests, improve family relationships, nourish deep friendships, make constructive use of my talents, become more authentic, and deepen my relationship with God. I even have fun.

The path leading up to marriage, even if it's a long winding one, can also be filled with depth and purpose. I look to my Jewish ancestors for role models. After all, was Miriam's marital status relevant when she took up her timbrels? Was Ruth's act of loyalty any less impressive because she was a single widow? And I think it says something that Yaakov knew that he had to wrestle with the angel without the security of his wives and children by his side.

No doubt a happy marriage and a Jewish family are great blessings. Someday soon I hope to merit both. But I also know that because I've had time to grow, I'll make better choices than I would have as a confused and insecure 28-year-old. For this reason, and others that I've mentioned, I would encourage many of the well-meaning, aspiring and actual matchmakers out there to look more deeply into the souls of the singles they meet. Perhaps they will then think twice before trying to pair a pink sock with a red sock just because they're in the same color family.

Published: October 13, 2007


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Visitor Comments: 39

(37) yehudit, February 12, 2012 7:02 PM

wonderful insights

I enjoyed reading this article immensely. It was refreshingly honest without a single (pardon the pun) trace of the bitterness often felt in similar articles. There is only one small point I wish to make: you mention that a lot of divorce could have been avoided had people not rushed into marriage so early. I say the opposite: A lof of divorce would be avoided if people didn't rush into DIVORCE so early!!!

(36) Rox (goy), November 2, 2007 1:02 PM

Great

This is a refreshing article to see on Aish. I'm not Jewish, but I am a single woman in my eary 30's.

I was getting frightened...steadily thinking more and more, that Jewish women were not really considered valuable or even human, unless they were *physically* married with ten *physical* children. And most of the articles on Aish.com mentioning women seem to be completely unable to not mention "wife" and "mother" in the same breath.

Your first matriarch didn't have any children until age 90, and your second patriarch didn't get married until late in his 30's. The daughters of Tzelaphad were on such a high spiritual level that no men could even come *close* to their level (for them to marry) until very late in their 40's, from what I read. Knowing all this, I cannot comprehend why Jewish women are so painfully empty without men and physical children when the patriarchs amd matriarchs of the faith were quite busy, happy, and productive without them!

Conversely, the Jewish *ideal* of what marriage is, is so beautiful, it's just seems awfully wrong to mess it up by choosing the wrong marriage partner out of desperation.

(35) kathee, October 31, 2007 10:17 AM

Amen, Gila!

Gila,

Your comments and observations are excellent. Maybe you should write an article?

It is unfortunate for anyone to decide that marriage and/or having children is the "be all and end all" of life. God has his own plan and we must trust Him.

Someone may gain tremendously from a relationship from you that isn't marriage. Perhaps you give encouragement to someone you didn't know was contemplating suicide. Perhaps you inspire someone to pursue a dream and they help many others, bettering lives. Was your life really a failure then?

There are other "children" one can have. Writers create books. Artists create paintings, sculpture, etc. Kindnesses are "children," too. Even working in what seems to be a regular, ordinary job, you can touch lives that touch other lives, like a line of dominoes.

And the fact is, you don't always know how many lives you have touched. It's hard to gain comfort from that sometimes. Everyone wants to feel important and know what great things they've accomplished in life. You may never know how many people are grateful to you -- even people who never knew your name, but you showed them kindness.

(34) Anonymous, October 28, 2007 2:56 AM

HI, MY NAME IS MARIA DEL CARMEN

I'VE READ YOUR ARTICLE VERY CAREFULLY, SO I FIND IT VERY INTERESTING

FOR ME. MAYBE BECAUSE I'M A 31-SINGLE-WOMAN, BECAUSE I HAVE'N MET

MY REAL SOUL MATE.

BUT YOU SAY SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT LIKE " TAKE A TIME TO WORK

ON YOURSELF" AND I'VE REALLY DONE IT. I'VE BEEN WORKING ON IMPROVING

AS A PROFESSIONAL AND GETTING A BETTER JOB.

I FEEL HAPPY BECAUSE OF THAT BUT NOW I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE MY OWN

FAMILY.

I HOPE ONE DAY MY DREAM BECAMES TRUE!!!!!!

THANK YOU.

BYE



(33) Gila, October 27, 2007 9:50 AM

Sometimes the answer is no

I like your article (and your article), but both it, and many of the comments, tend towards a very common assumption--that of course G-d WILL send a shidduch *and* that if He does not, it is, by definition, through some fault, decision or inadequacy of the single person. This is utter nonsense--it is akin to saying that a person struck down young by illness had a death wish. We all ask G-d for things--sometimes G-d's answer is "No".

The challenge is to accept that G-d may or may not accede to our requests and to ask ourselves why the answer is no. Not in a negative "If I fix myself, G-d will say yes" sort of way, but rather "Why did G-d make this decision? What does He want me to be doing instead?" Not "what do I have planned for myself" but rather, "what does G-d have planned for me"?

As a 37 year old single, I hope I get married, but don't assume it will happen. If it does, great. If it does not, I hope to use my time toward other productive ends.

One of your commenters snidely remarked that "at 50, it will be too late". At 50, the never-married Henrietta Szold was throwing herself into work that would eventually transform both the State of Israel and the Jewish Community in the United States. Too late for what?

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