Today my friend sent me a link to this YouTube video entitled NASI: Shidduch Crisis 2009.
It is set to what I can only consider funereal music and refers to women who are ages 24-29 and unmarried as members of a communal tragedy.
Now, as I am merely 20, I do not claim to represent that age group. However, I have certain thoughts about this video nonetheless. I believe that while it is an attempt to do something good, it is insensitive and even cruel. Because the message being sent is that if you are 24-29 and unmarried, yours is a tragic case. You should sit at home and weep over your misfortune for there is naught in the world left for you. A Jewish maidele of that age unmarried? Let's throw up our hands in alarm and weep copious tears.
There are different sorts of people in the world. Some of them do indeed wish to be married. Others do not. I can only speak for myself and so that is what I will do.
I was born with certain qualities and character traits. My parents worked long and hard to cultivate them within me. It is my task to give back to this world which God has enabled me to live in and to enjoy. Do I want to marry somebody? Yes, I do. But I also want to marry that person at a time when we shall be financially stable, when I know my own mind, when I am mature and certain that I can live happily and healthily with that person. I want to create and cultivate a family and raise them with as much love and joy and thought as my parents raised me. Thus, I want to marry the right person at the proper time, whenever that may be. I don't believe in expiration dates and I don't believe that once I turn 24, should it happen that I am unmarried, everyone ought to be crying over me. Because I'm not convinced that I have to be a tragedy.
Suppose that all that I desire is not granted to me. Suppose, and please God it won't happen, but suppose for a moment that I won't be married. Ought I to commit suicide in despair? Is my entire life over? The message that is sent by our community seems to suggest it is. Personally, I don't think so. Married or unmarried, I have abilities and talents that I plan to use in order to thank God for what He has given me. We exist to take the world by storm, not to spend our days languishing after husbands.
My heart is pained for those women or men who feel themselves to be in a tragic situation when they desire to be married and cannot find their soulmate. That has nothing to do with age. It is a sad thing to feel entrapped and lonely, to feel always as though one is only half a person. I do not speak because I lack compassion. To the contrary. I speak because I believe it is wrong for our community to encourage this point of view, the point of view where they have decided that if we are not married by a certain age that connotes that a tragedy is occuring. If I believe my situation is tragic, then certainly no one can gainsay me. But if I do not choose to think of it that way, I do not want that label applied to me. If I am never married, if God decides that is somehow my destiny, I will still not be a tragedy. I will be Chana; I will find different ways to contribute to the world.
What I object to is the community that sees my single or married state as a constant subject of discussion, the people clucking their tongues in supposed sympathy, the nosy questions, assumptions or suggestions, the fact that I am to be judged and to simply lie down and take that judgment, accept that label. Should I, for any reason, not marry by the right 'time,' I will automatically be deemed 'a tragedy.' People will say "Nebach" and shake their heads sadly. And why? What right have they? Who are they to determine my worth and my status within this world? I alone can determine that. And so I say again...even if I am never married, I will not be a tragedy. I am not someone to be labelled and pitied. My sorrow, should it exist, is my own, not the fodder for discussions behind the mechitza.
I am sure NASI means well and I hope that they succeed in helping those men or women who desire to find their soulmate in their quest. But I also hope that the perception in our community changes. People are not tragedies. They have so much to offer the world, so much to give, so much of vibrance and beauty about them. To reduce their worth to a question of whether or not they are married and dub them 'tragedy' if they do not succeed in this goal is to demote and demean them. People are so precious. They are worth so much. It would be an absolute shame to see them only in light of whether or not they have pledged themselves to another when there is so much else that sparkles and shines within them, that makes it an honor and joy to know them and share in their lives.