Sunday, July 27, 2008

Single by choice?

That's Mother in Israel's opinion concerning the majority of singles. (See the comments here.) Maybe I'm just reading too many blogs by singles over 30, but I haven't seen any evidence to support her assertion that most singles are single voluntarily. Or is it possible that it's so taboo to choose deliberately never to marry that people just don't discuss their choice publicly? I'd be very interested in hearing the opinions of others, especially those who are single, and particularly those singles who are 28 and older.

By way of clarification, since I'm not now, nor have I ever been, Orthodox, I see absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about a person over the age of 22 being single. (I won't even discuss the marital status of people under the age of 22. The pressure on young Orthodox Jews to get married at the earliest possible age is unreasonable, in my opinion.) I chose 28 not arbitrarily, but because I think that most people would probably be finished graduate school by then, and would probably be in a better position to start "the rest of their lives."


Blogger Shoshana said...

Ok, first of all, you have to define your terms. If Mother in Israel is speaking of Orthodox Jewish singles, then I think saying that the vast majority of them are single by choice is an absolute fallacy. I know of a couple people who will admit to their commitment-phobia or reflect that they really would prefer staying single to having the responsibilities of marriages, but these are extremely few and far between. The majority of Orthodox singles are raised in such environments that marriage and the family institution is touted as such a high and unyielding upper echelon of life that they would have an extremely difficult time ignoring the calls to get married. Unfortunately, a lot of them simply can not find a suitable spouse. Whatever the reasons are for this inability (and yes, I' sure you could put the blame on the singles themselves in some cases), it is not a deliberate, conscious (though I won't say it is not completely a subconscious) effort to stay single.

Btw, as for the shomer negiah restrictions, I think most singles, especially older singles, are more liberal with their attitudes towards shomer negiah than they will admit publicly. They are human, and shomer negiah is not easy, and I think probably the majority of singles past a certain age are not as strict in private as they are in public, myself included. And honestly, I don't blame them one bit.

Sun Jul 27, 07:51:00 AM 2008  
Blogger mother in israel said...

I was responding to a number you gave about the number of Israeli singles. So I was definitely referring to secular, non-celibate singles. I know many who are in long-term relationships, including with children. Surely at least one of the partners, and probably both, are single by choice. But because they are not celibate, it's irrelevant for this discussion. If you define single as not being involved in a sexual relationship, that's another story. But that's not what you said. Regarding Orthodox singles, I more or less agree with Shoshana's assessment, but I got married relatively young at 23 and don't have that much contact with older singles.

Sun Jul 27, 10:34:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Mother in Israeli, sorry I misunderstood. You might have a point regarding secular, non-celibate singles, though, even in that case, I'm inclined to wonder whether many of the women involved wouldn't gladly get married if the guy were interested. Of course, in Israel, there's the major complication that getting a get/Jewish religious divorce is no picnic for women, and there's no secular divorce in Israel, so that fact may also enter into a woman's decision.

I, too, think that Shoshana's assessment regarding Orthodox singles is probably on the mark.

Sun Jul 27, 11:45:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Gila said...

Mother in Israel: As a single, traditional Israeli.... I will accept your argument that I am "single by choice" if you will accept the following:

1) if you are diagnosed with cancer tomorrow--you have cancer by choice (not from G-d)

2) if something terrible happens to one of your family members--it happened by their choice. Your grief/mental suffering--again, you CHOSE to be in this position. (Again--forget about G-d. G-d has nothing to do with this. You chose it).

One of the worst parts of being single are the inconsiderate, arrogant and rather hateful attitudes one has deal with.

You know, because going through your life alone isn't painful enough.

Sun Jul 27, 03:30:00 PM 2008  
Blogger mother in israel said...


I was responding to a specific point Shira raised about the percentage of single Israelis, in the context of celibacy. I was only making the point that in Israel, being single and being celibate aren't necessarily the same. I never meant to imply that *all* singles, no matter their religious outlook, are so "by choice." But I understand why you found my comment hurtful, and I regret the choice of words. Since I seem to put my foot in my mouth on this subject, I will refrain from commenting on this topic in the future.

Sun Jul 27, 07:52:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Perhaps it was naive of me to assume that, with all the controversial discussions I host here, no one would ever feel hurt by anything said here. Still, it pains me to see this on my own blog. I truly hope that any misunderstanding has been cleared up.

Mon Jul 28, 10:07:00 AM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

Nobody that I know (my single friends range from 20s to early 40s) is single by choice. Perhaps far too picky, but everyone's 'picky barometer' is different so who am I to judge.

In terms of negiah, most of the Orthodox people I know keep it.

I think that part of the issue is that it is really hard to meet people naturally these days, and therefore putting oneself out there (shout: want to get married now or "putting oneself on the meat market") is a much more conscious and deliberate decision. The options include awkward conversation at a shul kiddush, and humiliation at singles events. So if the social anxiety (and the belief that humans are not meat) outstrips the desire for superficial interactions that have a 1% chance of resulting in a meaningful relationship, one is perceived as "not putting in the effort" and therefore "single by choice".

Mon Jul 28, 10:57:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Is it as difficult for men and women to meet in the Modern Orthodox world as in the "shidduch" world, in which a man and woman can't even have a phone conversation without someone approving it first? If so, all I can say is "ouch." No wonder so many Orthodox Jews are involuntarily single.

Mon Jul 28, 06:24:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that part of the problem is that we are no longer in the shetl, everything is very 'purposeful' so almost interaction is fraught with 'possibility', which makes everyone want to flee. Added with the problem that Jews are few and far between (comparatively) it's just difficult to meet many Jews unless at some kind of sanctioned event (which carries the 'ick' factor). Very hard to develop a friendship first, then see where it goes from there.

But then again, a lot of people would not agree with 'meet casually and become friends before seeing what else happens' because it might lead to mixed dancing...

Tue Jul 29, 11:46:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I would hope that my husband and I are not that atypical: We met "in the shtetl"--in synagogue, to be precise--and got to know each by serving on committees and participating in synagogue activities (Chanukah parties, etc.) together. In fact, we knew each other for so long before we started dating that we actually have only the vaguest idea of when we first met. Doesn't *anyone* meet anyone anymore just by doing things that they would enjoy doing anyway? As you may have gathered, I'm a great fan of developing a friendship first, and would love to see that happen for more people.

I would wish all singles "happy hunting," but perhaps it would be more appropriate to hope that your hunt has a happy ending.

Those of you who are in my area are cordially invited to the NYC-area bloggers picnic that I'm organizing. It appears that we'll be having a kosher dairy picnic in early September. Stay tuned for further details.

Tue Jul 29, 12:50:00 PM 2008  

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