Friday, November 12, 2010

"FABULOUS GIRLS" PART IV: THE AGE SQUEEZE

Hi, everyone. It's been a long time, I know. To those of you who do not know me personally, I apologize. To those personal friends who have been complaining that they don't know what's going on in my life, I have just one word: Facebook. And special thanks to Michael for encouraging me about this blog.

Continuing on with my series on "Fabulous Girls" in the Jewish community who are having trouble finding marriage partners . . . I know I promised to elaborate on the intermarriage issue, but have changed my mind for now (to quote Britney Spears, "that's my prerogative"). The great thing about blogging, rather than publishing in a paper, is that I can focus on areas that are of most interest to me because they pertain to me. For all the "shidduch" problems that hit Orthodox people hardest, intermarriage generally is not one. So I'm going to go on now with other factors that make it harder for Jewish women to get married, factors that hit me the hardest, unfortunately. Much of this appeared in my original World Jewish Digest story, but some is new for the blog.

THE AGE SQUEEZE

Jewish women are even more likely than non-Jewish women to be caught in the “age squeeze,” the phenomenon of women in their 20’s who think they have plenty of time to get married, only to discover in their 30’s that men their age prefer much younger dates.

As women age, their dating pools become quantitatively smaller, while men's become larger. This is because women prefer to marry men around their own age, give or take a few years. Men, however, almost universally prefer to date women who are younger – often much younger – than they are.

“You have a Jewish man and a Jewish woman who are both 28,” Fishman says. “They are both in graduate school or pursuing careers. The women see that not all the Jewish men are married yet. They are not panicking. What they don’t realize is that in their mid-30’s, when the men decide to settle down, the men will not be looking at Jewish women their own age. Instead, they will be looking at two different populations: Jewish women who are 10 years younger than they are or non-Jewish women.”

Sara Brownstein, a matchmaker who worked with hundreds of Los Angeles Jewish singles until she moved to Israel four years ago, puts the age squeeze slightly later, saying that “When a man in his 40’s wants to get married, if he does not have children, he will look for a woman under 40 because he wants children. They do not understand that if a woman is 35, 36 she does not want to marry a man who is older than 41, maybe 42. If he is in his 50’s, if he has children he does not want new babies. He could marry a woman in her 40’s, but those women still want children. They feel the men are too old.”

(I wish to acknowledge here that men in their late 40's and 50's who wish to have biological children are in an age squeeze of their own, wherein women who are still fertile consider these men too old to date. Anecdotally, I've noticed that women in their late 30's and early 40's, and men in their late's 40's and early 50's, are rather "stuck" because of the issues surrounding fertility and the conflict between wanting biological kids and being rather old to become a first-time parent. In some ways it may become easier once one can no longer have biological children or has given up on the idea, freeing one to date people of all ages or to become more open to the possibility of step-parenting. Adoption, by the way, is a whole other story because older couples are often considered undesirable by adoption agencies, at least in Israel - I don't know about the US.)

(I wish also to acknowledge that the "Age Squeeze" factor opens up all sorts of Pandora's Boxes about women's value being tied up with their youth and beauty and their perceived fertility, men's value being tied up with strength and perceived virility, painful issues surrounding infertility and the biological clock, medical miracles, cultural issues that effect family size, etc. Most of these are beyond the scope of my series and I'm sticking to the notes I have from the interviews I conducted for the article.)

The “age squeeze” appears to be more pronounced among Orthodox Jews than other groups. Danielle Jacobs, the chief operating officer of SawYouAtSinai.com (a dating Website with over 25,000 Orthodox members) and the founder of JRetroMatch.com (a site with almost 10,000 non-Orthodox Jewish members) says “age is a sensitive issue in the Orthodox community, more so than in the secular world. Men are not as open to dating women their own age, never mind a woman who is older. A man is less inclined to date a 30 year old if he can date a 23 year old.”

When I asked interviewees what women can do to increase their chances of getting married, the most common answer was "be willing to date men who are 10-15 years older than you are." I'd like to think that if I'd also asked what men can do, the answer would have been "be willing to date women your own age or older."

Up Next (I think): Frummer Than Thou

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