Over the years we’ve played host to the various boyfriends and girlfriends our children have brought home. But as our kids get older, the possibility of these passing romances turning into something more permanent looms on the horizon. We can’t help but analyze these temporary matches and judge whether the young men and women who hang around with our extraordinary children are worthy of them.
When Marc Mezvinsky started hanging out with Chelsea Clinton, did Marc’s mother think Chelsea was good enough for him? And in reverse, who is ever good enough for the daughter of a President?
In that union, though, it was the parents who had the most baggage. Would the mother of the groom — former U.S. Rep Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky – have to throw a few more hot dogs on the grill for the Secret Service every time her in-laws, the former U.S. President and current Secretary of State, dropped by? Would the Clintons try to put a positive spin on the career of their daughter’s father-in-law – a disgraced former Congressman who served time in federal prison for bank fraud?
Wouldn’t it be easier if our offspring married the children of our friends? Passover seders would be so much more fun! There would be no awkward “getting to know the machetunim,” no arguing over where to go for Thanksgiving.
We love to play matchmaker – in our heads. We know our kids would never listen. In fact, when it comes to whom they date, our stamp of approval is the kiss of death. That’s why, no matter how many times we ask the nice Jewish girl who has nice parents but is “just a friend” to stay for dinner – and she accepts and thanks us for the delicious grilled hamburger! – the relationship doesn’t seem to go any further than that. We know to stay quiet when a multi-pierced, motorcycle-riding future rock star comes to take our daughters out — hoping that our tacit OK will put the kibosh on the deal.
Some parents don’t just fantasize about matchmaking; they do it. Among Orthodox Jews, it’s not unusual to outsource the search for a marriage partner. These parents give the task to a shadchen, a skilled professional who matches up young people from compatible families.
In Japan, when a girl reaches marriageable age, parents often make up an information packet about her education and interests – including photos – to circulate to friends and distant relatives to see if anyone knows of a suitable match for her.
In India, the Internet facilitates matchmaking, according to CNN. Unlike eharmony.com, where only the person seeking a date can sign up, Indian websites like Shaadi.com (shaadi means “wedding” in Hindi), allows parents, siblings and friends to create a profile for the prospective bride and groom. When they search for a mate, they can indicate their preference of mother tongue, religion and caste (there are over 100 to choose from).
Oy, and we thought we had it rough with the Kohens, Levites and Israelites!
Fox News predicts that arranged marriages will be the next big trend, and reality TV isn’t far behind. The production team that created Project Runway and Top Chef is now casting for Arranged Marriage, a show that asks family and friends to help match up participants. You can apply on line at www.arrangedmarriagetv.com; a 13-page questionnaire covers topics including recent heartbreak, major fears, and favorite movies. Camera crews will follow the newlyweds through their first year of married life.
When we look back at our own marriages, we’re grateful that our parents had nothing to do with choosing our mates. We married young, right out of college. Our husbands were still in school and had not started their careers, yet our parents didn’t object. If they had concerns, they didn’t voice them. They paid for the wedding and wished us good luck.
We believe that we did get lucky. We picked sweet guys who made us laugh, and 64 collective years later, we are still in love. That’s enough evidence for us to say that our marriages were predestined, or bashert, and that we were made for each other.
Which brings us back to the question of the day: Who is wonderful enough for our kids? Where is their bashert? We’re old enough now to know that we have no clue. We trust that they’ll figure it out, like we did.
We just hope to be here when our children bring them home to meet us.