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The moment I realized I was an “older single” in my Orthodox Jewish community was, naturally, at an engagement party. She locked eyes with me and said: “Please God by you.” It’s a familiar refrain, heard by singles at any wedding-related party, cute when you’re young, eye-roll-inducing as you get older.It essentially means: Hopefully you will reach this milestone soon, too.I expected to host big Shabbat dinners with many guests, having many conversations, with many people who wouldn’t shut up.I expected to have to make decisions regarding which educational institutions to bestow my perfect children upon.Now, though, I’m closing in on 30 and whatever formless anticipations I had for my life no longer apply. Despite having two degrees, respectable employment, bills in my own name, and a decent CV of published articles, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve failed.At times my life feels like it’s boiling down to how deliberate I can make my successes if I never get married.
Over the past half-decade or so, much of my emotional currency has been spent figuring how I fit into the Orthodox community.I did, however, nebulously expect to be married by the age of 21.I expected to have a home and a family in an Orthodox Jewish community — in New York, Chicago, or even Israel, where I spent some time growing up.I was now the aging diva, being replaced by younger ingénues. Some claim that the résumés placed on their desks, you’d have no trouble believing that report.) Others choose to blame the situation on a Catch-22 inherent to a girl’s desirability: Send her to a good seminary in Israel for a year or two after high school, but by the time she gets back she’s aged out of the 18/19-year-old bracket that 22-year-old boys are looking for.I guess I should be thankful that the Orthodox Jewish community is aware. Because from my position, the larger sin is its lack of space for single women.