A seminary rabbi told over this story: There was a girl who was seminary perfect in every way. Attendance, grades, attire—the Mary Poppins of seminary girls.
When she returned home, she confessed, "I am living a lie."
David Brooks, in "Becoming a Real Person," references William Deresiewicz's book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life.
Deresiewicz offers a vision of what it takes to move from adolescence to adulthood. Everyone is born with a mind, he writes, but it is only through introspection, observation, connecting the head and the heart, making meaning of experience and finding an organizing purpose that you build a unique individual self.
Deresiewicz argues that once, that was the point of college. When one is away from home, becoming exposed to great thinkers, one's mind can expand into something individual and unique.
But colleges today no longer provide that experience.
Universities, he says, have been absorbed into the commercial ethos. Instead of being intervals of freedom, they are breeding grounds for advancement. Students are too busy jumping through the next hurdle in the résumé race to figure out what they really want. They are too frantic tasting everything on the smorgasbord to have life-altering encounters. They have a terror of closing off options. They have been inculcated with a lust for prestige and a fear of doing things that may put their status at risk.
The system pressures them to be excellent, but excellent sheep.
Doesn't that sound an awful lot like the current dating scene?
I'm going to make a leap here, but I am going to assume that the seminary girl had had shidduchim on the mind.
I wonder how many people—male, as well as female—are not doing what they would most like to do in life because it's "bad for shidduchim." Yet, I have not yet witnessed an example of anyone who was so "out there" in their choices that they couldn't get married. But it is still considered a valid explanation.
Steven Pinker, the great psychology professor at Harvard, wrote the most comprehensive response to Deresiewicz. “ . . . I have no idea how to get my students to build a self or become a soul. . .”
I'm going to be blunt again: Some people are followers. They just want to fit in. They don't want a special calling. They want to do what "everyone else" is doing, and they don't want to stand out at all. That's fine; that's who they are. But I get annoyed when they fall back on "bad for shidduchim," a nice, safe, socially-acceptable excuse for why they lead clone-like existences.
Everybody — administrators, admissions officers, faculty and students — knows that the pressures of the résumé race are out of control. . . But . . . An admissions officer might bias her criteria slightly away from the Résumé God and toward the quirky kid. A student may privately wrestle with taking a summer camp job instead of an emotionally vacuous but résumé-padding internship. But these struggles are informal, isolated and semi-articulate.
Daters, certainly, feel as though we are being rated nowadays. That's thanks to the internet, according to Delia Ephron in "Ouch. My Personality, Reviewed." She thought that she was done with report cards. Ha.
All those larger-than-life Biblical heroes and heroines who struck out on different paths—none of them were single because they broke molds. But we project our own insecurities on the community at large, blaming it like some sort of Big Brother entity if we desire to "check all the boxes." Sure, there will always be that obnoxious person who will gleefully tell one what one's "mistake" was, but that doesn't make them everyone, nor right.