Let's Be Real
There are two things that I’ve vowed to stay true to and which I believe are integral to relationships. Two things that I believe are so important, especially for us, as college students, to consider and ponder when we are creating crucial, and possibly life-long, relationships. These include, but are not limited to, relationships with our peers, professors, significant others, and, most importantly, ourselves. When speaking about relationships, one word is constantly thrown around: communication. But really I believe that communication boils down to two fundamental truths: honesty and trust. See, when we are honest with ourselves, no matter how painful the truth may be, we begin to trust our judgment more and more. This gives us the confidence to trust ourselves when we are faced with challenging decisions throughout our lives.
I began thinking about these two pillars of relationships when I realized, through my own experiences, how secretive and ashamed people are regarding where they come from and who they are, just because they fear that others would judge them. For example, Jane (for the purposes of this article I am changing names) came from a family in which her parents did not keep Shabbat or the laws of Kashrut. She, however, had chosen a life that moved her closer to halacha and Torah. Every time I spoke to Jane she would tell me her worries about dating, and her fear of telling her boyfriend that her parents were not observant. What if no one accepted her because of her background?
Another one of my friends, Melissa, dealt with a similar issue. When I was discussing dating with Melissa, I asked why she believed she had not found her significant other yet. She replied that it must have been because her mother did not cover her hair, and people judged her based on that. There are many factions of Judaism that do this - even in our seemingly open-minded “modern orthodox” community. However, we must realize that just because one’s family acts one way, does not mean that the child will automatically follow the same path. One should not make the judgement with that person until that conversation has been had. By doing so, not only is it a judgment on that one mitzvah, but it is a judgement on that person’s Judaism and hashkafa as a whole.
A similar situation was the case with Charlie. When his friends asked him what happened with that girl he was dating seriously, he answered that his Rav didn’t approve of her so they broke up. I look at this last example and wonder why someone else gets to make the call of who one is going to marry. The only person that is going to live with your significant other is you. It is integral to our development as college students and decision makers to own our lives, to stop letting our parents or Rav dictate our futures. I’m not saying not to take other people’s advice or to keep your ears closed to the voices and opinions of others. But you, and only you, decide your destiny.
Shadchanim want to know who your parents are, what you look like, your GPA, and how much money you have before they want to know you. I know that everyone hates the system, but what I cannot understand is why they are feeding into it. Don’t like shidduch resumes? Don’t make one. Don’t like the coffee-on-the-first-date rule? Go play pool. Don’t want to have someone be the in-between so that they can break up with the person you’re going out with so that you don’t have to hurt them? Break up with someone the old-fashioned way (oh, and for the love of God, don’t give them a stupid excuse why). Finding a person to spend the rest of your life with has become more like shopping for a new car at the car dealership than the humane and personal experience that it should be. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’d rather live my life living by the mistakes that I made instead of making the wrong choices others chose for me.
The point is, we all started somewhere and, although the world around us tries to create a perfect image of what every Jew should look like, the reality is that no one is perfect. We all have thoughts, questions, and doubts. That’s what makes us human, and that’s what unites us. So next time we meet someone, let’s not push them away because they don’t check every box of what the “perfect Jew” looks like. Let us listen to their story because something can be learned from everyone. Everyone has a story. Find yours and share it. Proudly.