Few things are as in desperate need of repair as the singles scene, whose gatherings I address on a regular basis as I did last week on Valentine’s Day. What you see is the typical scenario of the attractive women getting all the attention, the successful men drooling over them, and the "ordinary" people left to pick up the crumbs. Then there is the degrading spectacle of watching grown men and women walking around hoping to be noticed, or speaking to a member of the opposite sex while scanning distractedly to see if there is anyone "better" to connect with.
Curing the singles scene is one of the foremost priorities especially of the world Jewish community, whose greatest challenge today is not intermarriage but lack of marriage. There are precious few Jewish babies being born as Jewish men and women in jaded singles fortresses like New York continue the never-ending search for "the best" possible spouse. At one event I spoke at last month, a woman told me how ecstatic she was because there were actually some new faces she hadn’t seen at the previous 50 singles parties.
My concern for the dating scene has become even more pronounced as my eldest daughter is perched to enter it. We raised her as a feminine and religious young woman, and recreational dating was absolutely out of the question. But 19 is old enough for a mature woman to consider marriage — yes, I believe in marrying young — and she now wishes to find her soulmate.
But how is a young woman — religious, secular, or otherwise — who wants to retain her dignity supposed to find a gentleman today?
Should a woman go to singles parties where she is expected to paint her face, dress to the nines, and be treated as a piece of meat on display? That can prove pretty degrading.
Should she go speed-dating and have a five-minute rendezvous with 10 men in one night? How ridiculous. Speed-dating is one of the most puzzling relationship ideas to come along in years. Take a generation of commitment-phobic young people, who are already dating-addicts and love anorexics, and cater to their obsession for variety by having them date 10 people at once! What wonderful preparation for monogamy!
Should young women go to bars with female friends and try and meet a guy? Come on. Do you want to marry a husband whose principal companion is a Michelob Lite?
Well, there’s always Internet dating, right? Go ahead and post your details on the Internet. Surely, that’s not such a bad idea. But wait. Aren’t there 10 million other people with profiles? And that means one heck of a lot of choice. So, for all the help Internet dating has provided millions of people in getting married, it has stunted countless others who have become addicted to the search process. Furthermore, on Internet dating sites it’s still the picture that comes before the personality.
How about fancy matchmakers whom you pay to do the searching for you? Truth be told, I was once a huge advocate of matchmaking. But seeing today’s matchmakers cater to the male addiction to sex objects and the female addiction to success objects is turning me off. I have already commented in previous columns how shallow values have penetrated even the very religious dating scene, where stick-thin women are paired up with young men from wealthy families, and where character is subordinated to pedigree. In the secular world, of course, it’s much worse. And too many matchmakers are allowing themselves to be influenced by shallow values as they pair up men and women based on the most peripheral considerations. Matchmaking once had an innocence to it and was directed at bringing two lonely souls together. But today it’s about elite services charging an arm and a leg as it promises successful men that they will find models, and beautiful women that they can find walking credit cards.
I want my daughter to find a young man of character, with strong values, who carries himself humbly, has force of personality, and whose first dream is to enrich the world around him and to love the woman by his side. Who will love God, put his family first, be devoted to his community, and give dignity to all whom he encounters. But without going on the actual dates for my daughter (an idea she has raised some objections to), how will she meet someone like this?
And with the wider singles scene this bad, is it any wonder that most people prefer to stay at home with their cat? For the first time in American history, men and women living alone are the majority. How will we finally break this stranglehold of lovelessness?
There is a solution: we can deputize all the Earth’s inhabitants to become matchmakers. Every man and every woman must take it upon themselves to introduce these single people they know to each other. We all believe in giving charity and we all believe in acts of loving-kindness. Now, is there any higher act of kindness than curing someone else’s loneliness? I’m not asking you to pity singles. But I am suggesting that all of us take upon ourselves the obligation of increasing love in the world. A half an hour a week devoted to thinking through possible connections and making a couple of calls is all it takes.
In the United States we’re currently focused on the presidential race. Will it be Obama or Hillary, McCain or Huckabee? But when it comes to America’s profound social crises, will it even matter? Whether a Democrat or a Republican wins, will it lessen the 50 percent divorce rate? Will it lessen the one-third of the American population who have been treated for depression? Will it change the 40 million Americans whose marriages are utterly sexless? And will it lessen the more than 80 million American women who live without a man?
No candidate can change these things. Only we can. We can counsel our friends as their marriages disintegrate. We can step in and encourage our friends to connect with their children when their offspring seem lost. And we can invite two single friends to our homes for dinner in the hope that a casual introduction might just lead to something romantic and permanent. If God could play matchmaker to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, surely we can follow suit in our own living rooms and dining rooms.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach hosts a daily national radio show airing at 1′ p.m. and 5 p.m. on ‘Oprah and Friends.’ He has just published ‘The Broken American Male and how to Fix Him’ (St. Martin’s Press). www.shmuley.com